Four Score

Octogenarians are like buses: none for ages then two in the space of a month ! Ken will celebrate his milestone birthday on Saturday, but in the meantime he’d organised this Thursday’s hilly ride and birthday beers from the Crown, Little Walden.

The last ride we took from the Crown, ice was thick on the roads and the mercury hovered near zero. This time, the riders were greeted by considerably warmer and brighter conditions so it wasn’t surprising to see 15 riders on parade. Since journalistic fact checking appears to be optional these days, I can claim (without checking) that its the first time this year that the entire peloton were wearing shorts.

Food orders placed, Ken, on his trusty non-e-bike, led the first of two groups away – only to return a minute later to lock his car then charge off again after his group.

It being the nature of the Crown’s location, the hill up to Hadstock common invariably features in any ride starting from there. As a wide open elevated plateau, its not surprising that Hadstock common was the home of RAF Little Walden / USAAF Station 165 during WW2.

After tackling a few of quiet lanes East of Saffron Walden we congregated at the Bonnefirebox cafe, Wimbish for coffee and cake. This is a new venue for the club and a welcome addition. From here, the route turned to the West of Saffron Walden – after negotiating a particularly congested Newport high street.

Passing the Axe and Compasses in Arkesden, it was good to see much progress being made to the fire damaged building and thatched roof. Unfortunately, it won’t be open in time for the Women’s pro peloton to drop in for a pint tomorrow on their ‘Ride London Classique’ UCI world tour event. In fact, Ken’s route traced a good section of their route – albeit in reverse.

We finally crested the aptly named ‘Windmill Hill’ before the run back into Saffron Walden. Here, mapping software was blamed for the variety of routes taken through the town until all eventually made it onto the Little Walden road and hence the pub.

Once at the pub, it was excellent beer directly from the cask and fine food plus the obligatory rendering “Happy Birthday to yoooooo”. Many thanks to Ken for an incident free, albeit hilly, ride.

Ken, Howard, Ric, Geoff, Martin B, Andrew, Rod, Alan. Brian, Iain, Jeremy, Paul, Maurice, Martin W, Graham.


A taste of Italy, just not as planned.

I did not expect to be riding this week having planned to be in Italy but, having been refused permission to board a flight to Italy at great expense, here I was outside The Red Lion’s Italian restaurant. In Great Sampford. In England.

The expiry date on a UK passport is not the expiry date which is recognised by EU countries. Oh no, that would be too simple. For EU countries the expiry date is ten years from the issue date. You see a ten-year passport must last ten years, ten years exactly. To have an easy time interacting with the EU just try to think like a German. Anything other than ten years would be deviant Anglo-Saxon toying with government rules on and an official document. This might be interesting, even amusing in the arts as witnessed by exports like Mr Bean, Monty Python or the LiveStream of proceedings in the UK parliament. But a passport is not a place for amusing flexibility with rules.

I should add the rest of the world uses the expiry date as printed on the passport. All non-EU countries take the view that the UK government knows best when a UK passport expires, and that it helpfully prints this next to the words ‘expiry date’.

Deborah was disappointed not to be able to cycle on the pedestrian path by the river at Clare. Graham explained that it is ‘verboten’. We compromised in true British fashion by only cycling on it one way.

The route was clockwise via Clare Castle, and we split into two groups for the ride.

Excellent café with quick service, scenic setting and plenty of space.
(also cake)
Odd how flags are often flown from old building but rarely from new ones.

I’ve always been unable to convince my wife that I disappear each Thursday to go cycling. She remains convinced that I only eat cake, dine then return home smelling of beer. Similarly suspicious females ruined my trip into the wilderness around the castle to answer the call of nature and I was forced return to the busy facilities at the café.

Old problem or an ongoing one?
Tomato plants on the line growing from human sewage. Makes a change from delays caused by leaves I suppose.

The toilets contained an amusing sign. Amusing that is as long as the UK government continues to grant rail companies exception to the rules concerning the disposal of human waste.

As the head of the rail union recently said “You quickly learn to turn your back and close your mouth when you’re trackside and a train is passing. As I know first-hand.” He went on to suggest that if the government were treated the same way at work then they might apply the rules with more earnestness, saying, “it is our members, not government ministers, who are regularly sprayed with human sewage while working”. In the UK, trackside workers currently need to be inoculated against hepatitis which might be obtained by contact with raw sewage. The practice was to end in 2017, then in 2020, but it has proved to be more convenient for the government to extend impunity from health and safety regulations for a while longer. Naturally I wonder if the EU would find it so amusing or be so flexible with the rules. It is said that taking trains out of service to modify the toilets would inconvenience people travelling to large cities, like London.

I should add that not all of UK industry is as customer focussed as one might expect. Indeed, upon reading about the problem I find that it is mostly the public’s fault. As proof I offer a quote from Richard Parsons, operations director of the train cleaning system specialists Airquick, who confirms that a retrofitting programme “usually takes longer to achieve than planned” (?). “We have installed toilet retention tank emptying systems for retrofitted stock, only for them not to be used for up to 12 months following commissioning”.

OK I think, park one outside the café at Clare Castle and I will happily oblige.

Apparently, it is hard to fit a large enough tank for a gravity fed, water flush toilet anywhere on a train, so our sympathy and indulgence is requested. I note that the airlines use vacuum flushing for that reason. Still, that is an entirely different industry isn’t it, covered by international, not UK only rules.

One of our oft-photographed windmills showing club members old and new; Maurice, Ken and Howard, then Paul an Ian.

Overall a brilliant ride through a very picturesque and quiet route as planned by Maurice, who also organised our meals at the restaurant. After pleasant exercise and a beer in the warm spring sunshine with the club I felt much happier.

I returned home to my wife who said “I suppose you are going to tell me again that you have been cycling?”


11 May. Dawgfight over Duxford. 30 miles

This was a day many had been looking forward to – Andrew was celebrating his big 70th birthday which meant that he would be buying a large round of drinks.

Jeremy organised the ride which met at the popular Café 19 in Duxford at 9.00 for coffee and placing lunch orders before setting off at 9.30. Those accompanying him and Andrew were Roger, Deborah, Simon, Graham, Geoff, Howard, Alan, Iain, Paul, Martin B and Martin W, which meant a big bill was in store for Andrew!

Ready for the off

Setting off in two groups, this was the route taken:

Riding clockwise from Duxford the route was pretty well flat as a pancake but Jeremy had craftily incorporated a spike of a climb and descent between Bassingbourn and Haslingfield as can be seen from the elevation chart above. En route the first group came across a lady cyclist in distress with a puncture and nobly gave assistance, Howard being chief mechanic. Martin W’s feeble attempt to photograph the scene only resulted in a stressed looking selfie and a race to catch up with his group, but that’s what e-bikes are for.

Local lad Ric leads a panting group up the hill from Bassingbourn, before the fast descent of Chapel Hill to Haslingfield

Whizzing through to Harston, Ric’s home turf, Simon and Martin W stuck on the tail of Geoff as he cycled at speed on the bike path alongside the busy A10 thinking he knew where he was going. But, alas, a turning to Shelford was missed and it wasn’t long before the M11 junction hoved into view. Meanwhile, Ric, Graham and Iain took the right route and so a U-turn by the three lost sheep resulted in them getting to the coffee stop at Stapleford Granary last of all. The first group, who were behind having helped the lady in distress, also took the right turning.

Coffee and cakes at the Stapleford Granary were great – it’s a lovely place – but 13 Windmillers descending all at once plus regular customers makes for a test of any coffee machine.

The next part of the route took us alongside the fast flowing River Granta towards Babraham along a delightful off road route. Andrew is seen leading his group in the featured photo above.

Paul, Simon, Andrew, Jeremy, Deborah and Geoff pausing on a bridge over the River Granta, or are they about to play Pooh Sticks?
Babraham Hall, the focal point of what is now a huge science park at the Babraham Institute

It was at Babraham that Martin W decided to take a different route from the others in his group, to avoid lugging his heavy e-bike over the bridge spanning the A11. The diversion via the A 1307 was longer but the time was the same.

Cycling through Little and Great Abington, past Suzanne’s house (Where are you Suzanne? We miss you), the route took us into the large site of the former Land Settlement Association, one of many scattered around the country which were formed in the late 1930s to provide work for unemployed people in industrial areas. Each five acre plot came with a cottage and soon a thriving market garden industry was established which helped considerably to provide fresh food during wartime. In 1983 the LSA in Great Abington was disbanded and the cottages came up for sale. There are some left but most have been extended into large properties, many of which have equestrian facilities, but there still lots of greenhouses and vegetable growing enterprises.

This is an example of an extended cottage which is now a major asparagus business. Note the wartime Nissan Hut. For more information on the Land Settlement Association, click here:

Next stop was Sawston and then the bike path from the Spicers site through to Whittlesford and finally a network of alleys and twittens in Duxford before arriving back, a bit on the late side, for lunch at Café 19.

But before lunch could start for Deputy Dawg Andrew, he was treated to a Dawgfight between a Spitfire and a Spanish built Messerschmitt which was seen spewing white smoke from its tail to indicate it had been shot down.

The victorious Spitfire

Eventually, lunch got underway and it was good to have Maurice join us. A hearty rendering of Happy Birthday to Andrew was had, who we thanked heartily for buying the drinks.

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Dawggie, Happy birthday to you.

Thanks go also to Jeremy for planning and organising the ride, and for some of the photographs. Additional photographs kindly taken by others including Graham and Andrew.

Martin W



This Thursday’s ride saw a recent record 18 Windmillers on parade. A warm welcome to Paul, on his first outing with the group and welcome back Howard. The high turn out was no doubt influenced by the extensive Thai menu at the Navigators, Little Shelford; the dry and warm(ish) forecast; the long sections of dedicated cycle paths and the nearly pan flat course profile. In fact so flat was the profile, Charles was tempted into eschewing his ebike for his old faithful, normally aspirated Giant bike (but more on that later).

Brian had devised a devious 53km route up through the East side of Cambridge and back through the West side, maximising the use of cycle paths and cycle routes and minimising the use of of the city roads. A pleasure to ride but a real challenge to follow the twists and turns thereof ! Thankfully most Windmillers come equipped with electronic navigation these days and any wrong turning were quickly corrected. The stiff breeze on the day was from the East and didn’t hamper our progress on the largely North-South route.

Although mostly on paths, it was still deemed prudent to split into three equal groups. In time honoured fashion, the first ‘equal’ group set off with 7 riders, the second with 6 and the third with 5. Hmmmm.

Cambridge’s guided busway is (or was) the longest guided busway in the world and has two main branches. The Northern busway uses the course of the former Cambridge and Huntingdon railway and the Southern section uses part of the former Oxford Varsity Line. Although the utility and cost of the busway divided local opinion at the time, a total of 2,500,000 trips were made in the first year of operation which was 40% higher than the predicted figure. What is not in dispute is the utility of the busway to cyclists and pedestrians alike, who can enjoy munching kilometre after kilometre on a great surface almost risk free (not withstanding there has been the very occasional fatality involving cyclists and buses). Brian’s route made extensive use of both branches of the busway to ensure that brisk progress was made on the first leg of our route and we were soon clear of the city and heading for fen country.

A brief detour via Rampton and we were on course for the Auction House cafe in Willingham. Willingham Auctions was established in 1959, and ran as a popular Auctioneers and Estate Agents for 25 years. It was reopened in 1994. The café is now a justifiably popular part of the site. Somewhat delayed for coffee, however, was the second group on the road due to an unfortunate puncture to Charles’ bike. Not having his usual e-bike meant that his full bag of bike spare paraphernalia and electronic gadgetry wasn’t there when it was needed and the puncture took a long time to fix ! By the time we were finally all assembled for coffee, the sun was out and we could all relax in the courtyard enjoying the warmth – just as well as the sudden influx of 19 riders had put the café into temporary overload and drinks and cakes were a while in arriving !

The enforced extended break allowed us to review our clothing choice in the sunshine and multiple windproof hi-vis layers and thermal baselayers were duly stowed away.

The return leg took us in the vicinity of the popular Byron’s pool near Grantchester. Lord Byron himself (‘Don Juan’ dude and father of Ada Lovelace) is reputed to have used the pool for swimming. These days it is a popular nature reserve. The Rivers Bourne, Rhee, Cam and Granta all converge just upstream of the pool.

The Navigator has long had a reputation for fine Thai food and good beer but it hasn’t been a Windmill regular haunt (maybe until now) – it didn’t disappoint. Despite the large number of us, food and drink was efficiently delivered and efficiently consumed. Another great ride.

And the blog title ? Thai for: “turned out nice again”. The ‘crew’: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Ken, Martin B, Martin W, Maurice, Paul, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon.


27 April. Gastronomic ride around Essex lanes. 32 miles.

The Red Lion in Great Sampford is one of The Windmill Club’s favourite pubs, and it’s not hard to understand why – perfect Italian food in a cosy English pub. And this ride around quiet Essex lanes is also a favourite.

Nine gastronomic Windmillers were due to assemble around 9.15am but Graham suffered a puncture en route from Ickleton and Martin W, the silly Rev, got as far as Radwinter before realising he had left behind a key component of the fabulous e-bike on loan to him through the generosity of club member Iain – the all important control screen without which the bike goes nowhere, unless one chooses to pedal upwards of 30kg manually. So a quick call to his missus resulted in a meeting half way to collect the missing item (plus a water bottle also forgotten) and he eventually departed at 10.00am in turbo mode.

It wasn’t until Castle Hedingham that Graham and Martin caught up with the others who comprised Maurice, Andrew, Ken, Roger, Deborah, Simon and Martin B. Coffee at The Old Moat House was excellent and Martin B very kindly picked up the tab. Thanks Martin!

The Essex lanes and cottages were looking splendid in the Spring sunshine, although dodging potholes results in less opportunity to admire the surroundings.

This is St John the Baptist church in Little Yeldham, dating back to the 12th century and built largely with flint and pebbles. Several other churches were seen to be built with red bricks.
OK, some of us like old cars or tractors but this farmer clearly has a passion for old buses. The red London Transport single decker in the middle is a classic design.

Graham mentioned towards the end of the ride that he had already clocked up 1,000 metres of vertical climbing since leaving Ickleton and was looking forward to his lunch. What a feat – well done Graham. Just a bit of practice before a tour of the Dolomites apparently………

Back at The Red Lion the gastronomes tucked into some excellent Italian fare, washed down with fine English ales. This is what they had:

Windmill Club Lunch Red Lion Great Sampford
Thursday 27th April 23 13.00 Lunch

Andrew Soup and Chips
Simon Pork chop and chips
Roger Spaghetti alla Bolognese
Martin B Soup & Chips
Graham Risotto with prawns, mushroom, curry
Ken Seafood spiedino
Maurice Avocado,Salmon & Crayfish salad
Martin W Spaghetti with mixed seafood
Deborah Risotto curry with mushrooms & prawns

And this is the happy band:

Thanks go to Maurice for planning the route and to Andrew for organising the lunch.

This is where we went:

Martin W


20 April 2023. Hot Rod’s 80th birthday ride

It’s not often an 80th birthday is celebrated but to do so for an active Windmill Club member made this a very special day. It was difficult to believe that our very own Rod, also known as Hot Rod on account of his powerful e-bike, had reached this grand old age and who has every intention of continuing to ride for another 10 years at least. Well done Rod, you’re an inspiration to us all!

And so it was that 10 Windmillers comprising Rod, Maurice, Andrew, Ken, Jeremy, Ric, Simon, Deborah, Charles and Martin gathered at The Pig & Abbott at Abington Pigotts to have coffee and place lunch orders for Pat’s pies and other delicious dishes before setting off on a figure of 8 route devised by Rod which took us to Biggleswade and back.

Le Grand Depart with birthday boy Rod in the middle

Andrew had bad memories of one of his first ever Windmill Club rides from The Pig & Abbott when he suffered a major puncture, only to discover that within 100 metres of the start the same thing happened again. Off came his rear wheel in remarkable speed, aiming to beat the 4 minute puncture repair target, but the valve appeared to be loose so it was tightened up and the wheel went back on in probably less than 4 minutes and the tyre pumped up. All seemed well until an inspection of the tyre revealed a mini flint which when removed resulted in a loud hiss of air. Off came the wheel again, 8 minutes having come and gone by then, and a new tube inserted which resulted in a total of around 12 minutes before the second group could really get going.

Andrew attacking his puncture just 100 metres from the start

Ken was also seen heading back to the Pig and Abbott as he had forgotten something saying he would catch us up in Ashwell by taking a short cut. We were also worried about Simon possibly taking the northbound slip road to the A1 at Edworth, a road he has been known to cycle along previously, but we all arrived eventually at Jordan’s Mill near Biggleswade for coffee, with warnings to padlock bikes securely as this was a favourite place for thieves to nick bikes whilst their owners were having coffee.

Bedfordshire is a funny place. Parts of it are very beautiful but other parts are a bit drab, particularly the busy bits near the A1 such as Biggleswade. But after turning off the busy B1040 towards Potton we were soon cruising through some lovely villages en route to Guilden Morden and Steeple Morden and then to Litlington and Abington Pigotts.

Back at The Pig & Abbott it was good to sit in ‘our’ dining room and be served wonderful food by Pat and her staff, washed down with fine ales and assorted drinks. A hearty rendering of ‘Happy Birthday’ was sung for Rod who was also served with a large chocolate cake sporting a large firework.

Apologies for not being able to include as many photographs as hoped for, or the map of the route; WordPress seems to be playing up or is it me?


PS. Now upgraded to Premium so with luck more photos / maps can be uploaded. Here goes:

Just as well no one ordered puds

And this is where we went:

Yippee, it works.

Café 19 Duxford Old Butchers

Café Society

It isn’t often that we lunch in a café rather than a pub. Indeed, it is almost a year to the day since our outing to Ely when we last ordered lunch from a barista rather than a barman.

So quite understandably, there was some consternation in the peloton when Jeremy announced we would be lunching at Duxford’s Café 19. Would they tolerate our alehouse manners? Might Simon’s eccentric tearoom etiquette raise eyebrows? And, let’s not beat around the bush here, did they serve beer?

We needn’t have worried, not only did Café 19 serve up an excellent lunch, but they made us feel most welcome and we were warmly invited to return. What’s more, there was a decent selection of bottled beers on offer – and Simon was on his best behaviour.

Thanks to Jeremy we had enjoyed an excellent outing, riding once more through the Abington Land Settlements, climbing the stiff hill up to Balsham – where we stopped for coffee at The Old Butchers – before heading back down the hill towards Sawston and returning to Duxford.

Coffee at Balsham’s Old Butchers

Jeremy lost us only once – which puts him on a par with Maurice – but otherwise managed to get us all back safely and on time. Top chap!

Completing the 30 mile circuit were: Andrew, Brian, Chris, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jenni, Jeremy, Ken, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon and Victor.

Graham, Victor and Roger cresting the hill at Linton
. . . closely followed by Ken and Andrew, feeling the burn
Jeremy’s wiggly route, some 30 miles in all, taking in Duxford, Whittlesford, Sawston, Pampisford, Linton, Balsham, Great Abington, Babraham, Sawston and Shelford


The Chestnut Tree West Wratting West Wratting

Wet in West Wratting

Nine Windmillers – Simon, Roger, Rod, Maurice, Graham, Geoff, Charles, Brian and new recruit, Abi – set off from West Wratting on a 31 mile outing, stopping for coffee at Café 33 just outside HMP Highpoint.

Maurice, Geoff and Simon on parole . . .
. . . while Abi, Graham and Roger do time inside

Along the way we had a soaking – three soakings to be precise – so it was good to be back in The Chestnut Tree where we dried out over a well-earned beer.

Morning coffee at The Chestnut Tree
31 miles clockwise from West Wratting

Thanks go to Maurice for planning the route – one of my personal favourites. Also to Charles for his excellent photographs.



Just a bit of water?

Monday’s ride involved Sandra, myself and Nick, Charles and Rod. That the last three have electric bikes becomes more relevant than usual as this story evolves.

After a pretty wet March the start of April at last saw some clear skies and we set off from The Red Cow in Chrishall in good spirits led by Charles who had stepped into the breach and sent out a route via Furneux Pelham.

In an eventful ride, Nick had already fallen off and hurt his wrist and knee while travelling these muddy and pot-holed roads. But then we came to a road closure between Little Hormead and Pelham. We usually ignore these signs of course, considering them more relevant to cars, that’s if they mean anything at all and haven’t just been left out from weeks ago.

This one though was different. Some clues were present which I should have noticed. There were workmen, yes real people actually doing things, with white vans, road signs and stuff. There was a red car ‘not waving but drowning’ as Stevie Smith would have it. And really I should have stopped. I should have thought about club members with big electric batteries on their bikes. I should have turned back when the water got deeper and deeper.

But I didn’t.

There comes a point where you can’t turn round. Where the water is over the front mud-guard and approaching the cross-bar. Having wet legs is one thing, but this was starting to threaten more intimate parts. It was cold, very cold ‘land-water’ and approaching the depth where most wading men hesitate. Still eventually the danger passed and I was out the other side.


To quote Stevie Smith ‘Life is a series of opportunities to be misunderstood’. And I had misunderstood my fellow cyclists willingness to tackle such a challenge. They were sensible, but were now faced with a considerable detour. Shouted instructions from Charles resulted in our reunion in Pelham. I was soaked from mid-thigh down. By the time we got back to the pub my feet were uncomfortably cold.

Still life soon improved with Charles furnishing beer and nuts for the group back at the Cow. So, Simon, ‘look before you leap’ or is it ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’. All I gained this time was a good soaking and a cold ride home. Still Charles came into his own and provided a video of the whole ‘happening’ for your amusement.

It takes a long time after heavy rainfall for the water to run off the land. Blue sky and pleasant weather is no guarantee of shallow pools on the road. Still it’s good to get out and experience your surrounding for real. No virtual cycling for us.

Cold muddy, water though, not a very pleasant experience.


Sausages all the way down

Braughing is internationally famous in Hertfordshire and Essex for its Sausages. In 1954 Douglas White and his wife Anna made their first Braughing Sausages which proved to be instantly popular. The claim is that the recipe has remained the same since then and that the sausages are still made using traditional methods – albeit not now in Braughing, but Newmarket two counties away. On average 30,000 Braughing branded sausages are sold each week.

Its not sausages all the way down, though. Braughing’s history dates back to the Iron age – it was the site of the largest ‘Celtic’ mint discovered in Europe. There were also significant Roman and Anglo Saxon settlements here.

There used to be a station on the Great Eastern Railway Buntingford branch, which closed in 1964. In 1953, the station featured in the comedy film ‘Happy Ever After’ with the late David Niven and George Cole. The site of the station was just visible from our ride and appears now to be part of a full size hobby train set. Also sadly lost to the village, only a couple of years ago, is the delightful H & N Jones Grocers and Post Office.

Happily the village still supports the grade 1 listed church of St Mary and no fewer than three pubs. One of these pubs is a popular club haunt, The Golden Fleece, and it was from here that 11 riders gathered for today’s ride. Maurice’s route was an old favourite taking in quiet Hertfordshire lanes (filthy and muddy after heavy overnight rain) and the multi use tow path alongside the River Lea Navigation canal between Hertford and Ware. Or at least that was the plan. Maurice’s group decided to miss a section of the path to avoid the puddles, which left Deborah (dallying to watch the abundant bird life at Amwell Nature reserve) temporarily stranded without a group. No crisis in the end, though, and all were reunited at Ware Cafe for mid ride refreshments, taken in a brief bout of warm sunshine.

We have another puncture prize contender ! Actually, given the state of the roads, only one puncture was not bad going but that was no consolation to Rach, who’s puncture it was. Why is it that apparently premium inner tubes aren’t supplied with the valve cores firmly locked in place ? Even if they deign to stay in place when the bike pump is disconnected (they often don’t), they can work slightly loose on the road causing a slow loss of pressure. Such was Rach’s experience for most of the ride. Luckily Tom managed to flag down someone with some pliers to enable a working fix to be made which lasted nearly, but not quite, back to the pub. TOP TIP: If you have spare inner tubes featuring removable valve cores, tighten the cores up with some long nosed pliers before you need to use them.

All back at the pub having miraculously dodged the heavy showers, it was sausage baguettes (Braughing sausages, naturally) for many of the riders.

And, for the record, the riders were: Deborah, Rach, Jennie, Maurice, Simon, Roger, Geoff, Graham, Martin II, Tom and Nigel.

Café Como Hartest Suffolk The Crown Hartest

Stoned in Hartest

It seems every other alehouse we frequent is at the top of a bloody great hill, so The Crown at Hartest gets my vote for best pub, if only because it’s at the bottom of a steep hill; which is blissful indeed at the end of a 30 mile ride. The hospitality is pretty good too.

The Hartest Stone

Deep in the Suffolk countryside, the villagers of Hartest claim there is no other town in the world of the same name. Their other claim to fame is the Hartest Stone a large boulder on the edge of the green, thought to have been placed on that spot in the early 18th century. Locals say the boulder turns over at the stroke of midnight and that sitting on it as the clock strikes twelve may bring you a wife or good fortune. I know which I’d prefer.

Jeremy, Andrew and Deb demonstrate some one-handed cycling

So it was that eleven Windmillers set out from The Crown in pursuit of Maurice who led us around some of the prettiest parts of Suffolk, taking in Glemsford, Brent Eleigh and Lavenham.

It was at Brent Eleigh that we made a long overdue return visit to Café Como for some excellent coffee and cake. It was here that Andrew went into recruitment mode and persuaded one of the patrons – Abi – to join us on a future ride. We look forward to seeing her in the near future.

Outside Café Como, Roger looking very relaxed on his birthday, while Simon, Graham, MartinB and Alan look on

Cresting Hartest Hill, we freewheeled back down to The Crown where Roger, top chap, bought us all beer. Happy Birthday, Roger.

Brent Eleigh

For the record, the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deb, Graham, Jeremy, MartinB, Maurice, Roger and Simon. No punctures, nobody fell off, and we didn’t get wet. Hurrah!

32 miles anticlockwise from Hartest

Thanks Maurice; excellent route. Thanks, Andrew, for getting us all organised. And thanks, Roger, for the beer.



Simon in an E-bike Sandwich

The last Monday ride of the winter and for once a dry and slightly milder day saw the four e-bikers Maurice, Charles, Iain and Rod joined by man powered Simon, our migratory cyclist who had over-wintered in Central America, but was now safely back in his home territory. Wisely he hadn’t told his hosts of his chemistry skills or he’d probably have been kidnapped and set to work in some narco lab.

This was the last of our winter rides as with the clocks springing forward next weekend so will the Monday riders, going back to the 16:00 start time and probably goodbye to The Pheasant for now as our regular pub. As Alan excused himself with a dental appointment, not as I thought meeting his bank manager to pay in his Cheltenham winnings, I was leading. I must remember though that those following don’t always pedal as fast as I do! With 4 e-bikes, Simon had his work cut-out to keep up.

After last Thursday’s wet roads it was good to see roads drying out, although still much debris and potholes to avoid. Will we ever see pothole free roads or are the quite lanes we use doomed to slowly degrade, until they become byways unsuitable for most traffic, after a long a frosty winter there is much work to do. With the daffodills blooming, the crops growing well and water back in the streams, Spring has sprung, at least for now.

Those hardy/stupid/brave (delete as appropriate) riders who have been out on Monday’s have enjoyed many good winter rides and some new roads, thanks to Alan, although we have had our share of frost, wind and rain. We can now look forward to warmer rides and all of us back to shorts, not just Victor who joined us a The Pheasant for lunch.

Let’s look forward to better cycling conditions and new pubs to visit over the summer, happy cycling to all. I’m now off to Madeira for a short break so see you all in early April. Rod


March 16. Halls Green via Codicote

Sometimes its a pleasure to visit places which really understand your outlook on life.

“Ah it’s good to be back” I thought as my wheel-rim clanged into a second pothole filled with muddy-brown water. “I have missed dozens of those this morning and Guatemala has much bigger holes”. I made a mental note to ring the Guatemala Road Authorities and ask them if “after you have had some practice with your own potholes, can they please come and help out in Essex?”

Having listened to the Budget and Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, I was reassured nothing much had changed during my travels. I got up full of enthusiasm on Thursday ready for this weeks ride, ably organised by Graham, from the Rising Sun in Halls Green. I wasn’t sure the sun had actually risen, since it was rather grey. Still the overnight rain was easing, surface water was running down the road and all the potholes were nicely full.

Charles gathers the troops for a photo.
Argand lamp and Fresnel lens on an inland lighthouse.

We split into two manageable groups, the first consisting of Charles, Rach, Jeremy, Tom and new-Martin. The second group was Graham, Iain, Rod, Geoff, Victor and Simon. A number of members failed to attend this ride. The common theme seems to be horses; Alan was in Cheltenham choosing slow horses, Andrew was at the horse hospital and Maurice had back-ache from cleaning up after horses (and Lin’s birthday party).

Group 1 at the watercress beds.

All was well, though my chain came off once, when I selected an easier gear, but at the wrong time. We passed the Nine Wells Farm at Whitwell, which is one of only two watercress farms in Hertfordshire and has been run by the Sansom family for nearly 200 years. There are nine artesian wells in the cress beds, which go down 250ft, hence the farm’s name. They harvest in May and again in very late autumn. The cress is busy flowering during the summer, so they have to leave it to do its own thing.

Route. I hope the good people of Stevenage are not offended by our choice of route.
Coffee and cake with halfway-Sandra.
Group 2 chose the comfy sofas which make such a change from those bike saddles.

Graham had chosen the cycling heaven of Spokes Cycling Café in Codicote, which is a quirky and highly distinctive cycle stop for proper cyclists. It has extensive workshops, excellent coffee, cake, Lycra clothing and straw hats just lying around for glabrous* cyclists to try on.

What’s not to like!

*Bald is now recognised in discrimination law as a sex specific insult. The jury is still considering ‘slap-head’ though it may be classified as incitement to unacceptable physical violence. I have tied to keep this blog within currently acceptable guidelines by using almost unknown adjectives for any physical characteristics.

Looks like an upgrade to me but needs a basket.
Victor makes full use of the facilities.

On arrival Victor carefully locked his bike to their rack. He assures me his steed is from this millennium and so eminently nickable. Anyway having carried a lock that size around, he was damn sure he was going to use it. The café facilities were rustic, but cyclists are grateful just for somewhere out of the wind and so these were perfectly acceptable.

Welcome sign. What brilliant organisation.

Return to the pub was uneventful. My fitness had improved a bit which is always welcome. Graham had arranged a table and pre-ordered the meals. None of this stuff happens without someone making an effort, so we were all grateful to sit down and enjoy a pint and a good meal.

Another well spent Thursday.

It turned out to be a descent day. No significant rain and fairly warm. A very nice route (thanks to Graham), efficient pub and another good trip for the Windmill Club.

Long may it continue.


Life is Full of Ups and Downs

Heath Cafe pre ride coffee (and breakfast for those that wished)

Therfield Heath (not Royston Heath as I’d once thought it was called) is an SSSI of 170 hectares (420 acres) of chalk heathland to the West of Royston. The chalk was formed in the Cretaceous period (65 – 95 million years ago) and uplifted during the Alpine Orogeny then subsequently eroded by melt water from ice sheets from the Anglian ice age. The highest point of the Heath is Therfield Hill which reaches 168 m, the highest point for nearly 20km in every direction.

During World War II, the Heath was used as a prisoner of war camp. Originally the camp held 300 Italian prisoners later replaced by many more German POWs. Prisoners were put to work on the farms and – more pertenant to we cyclists – road building and maintenance. If only someone would do some road maintainance now !

One such road gains nearly 100m of elevation up the edge of the Heath to the village of Therfield itself. Rod, in his benelonence, started this ride from the Heath Cafe and took us straight up this hill – the first of five categorised climbs on the route according to Garmin.

Atop Reed Joint after the first bout of climbing

At this point, we should welcome back to the UK the Professor, Simon, fresh home from his two month cycle free sabbatical in Costa Rica and Guatamala. The road condition here might seem similar to Guatamala but the fresh NE breeze and the toughest route we’ve done for a while came as a shock to the system. One person for whom the conditions shouldn’t have been a surprise was Victor, but he still bravely (or stupidly) turned out in shorts again ! Hope you’ve both recovered from tired legs and frozen kneecaps respectively.

Victor ‘the knees’
The Professor and mill

Half way into the ride, Poppys Barn tea room was busy on arrival. Luckily Rod had had the foresight to reserve a table in advance so it was warming coffees all round before setting off on the still hilly return leg. On the way back we stopped briefly at THE windmill at Great Chishill – the windmill from which the club derives its name (One of 7 surviving open trestle mills, built in 1819). A short series of ups and downs led back to Royston, then through the town and back to the Heath Cafe. The excellent pre-ordered lunches arrived in short order and were enjoyed by all on parade along with some much needed restorative beers. Many thanks to the organiser, Rod.


Finally, for the record (manual pedal power acknowledged first on this occasion, due to the hilly effort involved): Andrew, Roger, Victor, Simon, Brian, Jeremy, Graham, Alan, eGeoff, eRod and (collected en route from Barkway) eMaurice.


Tour de South Cambridgeshire Villages

As a philosophical question: If a Windmiller falls off on the way to the ride and no one is around to hear it, does it count towards ride statistics? After last week’s very much witnessed involuntary diesel induced dismounts, Alan’s pre ride mud induced dismount was unwitnessed but was nevertheless severe enough to force a premature abandonment and a return home for a hot bath – or at least it would have done if the luckless Alan had working heating and hot water ! One ‘incident’ that does count towards ride statistics was Brian’s rear wheel puncture close (but not close enough) to the sanctuary of the pub near the end of the ride.

In fact it became increasingly difficult as the morning went on to keep tabs on who was with us and who wasn’t: Graham hadn’t arrived in time for the pre ride gathering, arriving just at the start. Ken was collected in Newton but returned home early, Charles left the peloton early as did the somewhat sore Alan. In the end only five of us remained for lunch at the Three Horseshoes.

And so to the ride, once again devised by Jeremy. The previous blog I wrote started with the words, “It might have been above freezing, but it was still chilly, with grey skies and a keen northerly breeze.” Looks like I can reuse those words for last Thursday’s Tour de South Cambridgeshire villages. Stapleford, Great Shelford, Little Shelford, Newton, Harston, Foxton, Fowlmere, Chrishall Grange, Ickleton (where hats were ‘doffed’ outside the Old Vicarage), Hinxton, Duxford, Whittlesford, Sawston, Pampisford, Great Abington, Little Abington, Babraham were all visited en route ! As the number of riders waxed and wained, the peloton split and regrouped along the way as we wended our way along a mixture of lanes, cycle paths and even bridleways. Coffee and cakes at the excellent cafe 19 community centre in Duxford was one of the few occasions when the whole ride was together !

For those wondering about the concrete North and South roads in Great Abbington: “In the depression before the Second World War the Land Settlement Association set up a site on the southern side of Great Abington with over sixty houses and plots of land for unemployed miners mainly from the coalfields in Yorkshire and Durham. This estate now comprises privately owned properties and very few of the holdings are still used for horticulture.”

Participants for all or part of the ride were: Deborah, Jeremy, Brian, Roger, Rod, Nigel, Charles, Alan, Graham and Ken.

Madingley Hall Three Horseshoes, Stapleford

Two down in Stapleford

Ready for the off; Windmillers brightening up a dull morning in Stapleford

We’ve had our fair share of tumbles over the years, and of varying degrees of severity ranging from the mildest (witness: The Alan & Roger Tango and The Simon Roll) to the more serious Full Hazel, which required a visit to A&E. And to my knowledge, there’s only one Windmiller who ever broke bone, our dear departed friend, John Tarrington, though I hasten to say his final departure had nothing to do with his tumble.

So it came as a relief when Chris and Brian were seen to pick themselves up having quite independently come to grief on the same patch of spilt diesel, just 50 yards short of our lunch venue, The Three Horseshoes in Stapleford. Happily, both riders, despite some bruises and torn cyclewear, responded well to treatment, ie a pint in the pub.

Madingley Hall

Tumbles aside, it was a good outing; Brian leading the way around a 30 mile circuit via Cambridge to Madingley Hall and back. This was our first visit to the 16th century Hall, though not a propitious one, as we gave up waiting for coffee and cake, pressing on instead to Coton Orchard Garden Centre for some 21st century service.

In all, thirteen Windmillers – Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Deborah, Iain, Jenni, Martin B, Ric, Rod, Sandra and Victor – completed the ride and eleven of ’em didn’t fall off. And finally, we were delighted to see Maurice joining us for lunch.


Great socks, Charles
A baker’s dozen of Windmillers, if you include Brian behind the camera
Rod on a mission
30 miles anticlockwise: Stapleford, Cambridge, Oakington, Bar Hill, Dry Drayton, Madingley, Coton, Grantchester, Trumpington Meadows, Hauxton, Shelford, Stapleford

Glowing at the Chestnut Tree

9th February 31.5 miles

Eleven riders met at the Chestnut Tree at West Wratting. For the record they were Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Roger, Sandra and Graham.

As always when we arrived at the Chestnut Tree we were met by Peter who invited us in for a cup of coffee. It always makes for a good start.

Before setting off we got together for a group photo. Graham was missing from the picture as he was mending a puncture which he had picked up on the ride up.

As you can see the morning coffee left some of us glowing ready for the ride. Victor was looking forward to a spring ride and dressed for the occasion with the first appearance of shorts.

We split up into two groups with Maurice leading group one and Alan leading group two.

The only incident to report before the coffee stop was two riders Deborah and Victor were spotted so deep in conversation they rode past a turning. Graham performed his roll of bike herder and rode off after them. Fortunately the detour which they took picked up the road on the way to the coffee stop a little way down the road from the planned route. Meaning we all arrived at Tarka’s for refreshments.

Coffee and a small cake is usually enough to sustain us all. However on this occasion Charles was in need of a sugar rush, so ordered a hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows plus a large piece of chocolate cake.

Charles shows off his chosen vehicle for the sugar rush.

Whilst waiting for the others to finish their coffee and cake Roger does an impression of Max Bygraves telling a story.

Refreshed and fully charged the groups headed off back to West Wratting. As the groups neared the last few miles all the riders put their heads down and raced off to the pub.

Sitting down for lunch we realised that that Brain and Geoff had not turned up. Attempts were made to contact them by phone, but to no avail. Not to worry within a few minutes both turned up just as the pre ordered lunch arrived at the table. They had been delayed due to Brian having a puncture.

As always a lovely ride. Thanks to Maurice for planning the route around Haverhill.


Late coffees and birthday beers

Thursday morning saw another good turnout; sixteen Windmillers gathering at the Fox & Duck, Therfield, all well-wrapped against the cold – apart from Victor, who was in shorts. Crikey, Victor, it’s 3°C!

Maurice and his posse

Rod’s route took us south from Therfield, with an early coffee stop just nine miles in at Ardeley – or at least that was the plan. Half of us did indeed stop there – but were bemused to see the other half sail by, seemingly oblivious to the prominent sign, ‘Farm Café & Coffee Shop’. You can only lead a horse to water,eh?

Graham, as captured by Charles’ rear facing camera

They did eventually find a café, though it was 10 miles further, on Buntingford High Street.

Buntingford High Street – and a late coffee for some

Back at the pub, we were delighted to hear it was Martin B’s birthday – and he duly bought us all a beer. Happy Birthday, Martin!

For the record, the turnout was – Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Iain, Ken, Martin B, Maurice, Nigel, Rod, Roger, Sandra and Victor – and we clocked up 26 miles

26 miles anticlockwise


Biking Brummie Brian’s Bostin’ Birthday Beers

The day after Burns night above Freezing At Last !

It might have been above freezing, but it was still chilly, with grey skies and a keen northerly breeze. Furthermore, as a legacy from the recent cold snap, plentiful icy patches still lingered on the quieter roads.

Despite all of this , eleven riders braved the elemements to arrive at the Red Lion in Great Sampford – tempted no doubt by the fine Italian cuisine on offer for lunch (or could it have been the promise of Birthday Beers?). Actually twelve turned up but our newest member, Con, had had a “Doh” moment that morning and had arrived sans helmet and so couldn’t ride with us. Happily he was over any embarassment come lunch time and dutifully joined us for lunch.

Our route, initially downwind, headed to the outskirts of Finchingfield before heading North towards Steeple Bumpstead into the nagging headwind. In an attempt to stay warm, group discipline soon fragmented, with groups of 3 and 4 riders scattered along the route.

Coffee and Hot Chocolate and Cake at Tarkas was most welcome, despite the short main road section, then onto the slightly hillier section of the ride through to Ashdon and finally the downwind run back to the pub. Thanks once again for the beers, Brian, and a belated happy birthday.

Riders: Deborah, Rach, Hazel, Rod, Tom, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Victor, Martin II, Graham plus Con, Maurice and Iain for lunch.


Eyes Down

19th January 2023. 30 miles

Five riders Alan, Graham, Rodger, Rod and new boy Martin met at the Crown pub Little Walden. This was Martin’s third attempt to ride with us. The first time his bike could not be unlocked, the second time he was feeling the after effects of his flu vaccine, so third time lucky. A warm welcome to you.
Which is more than could be said about the weather which was freezing. Overnight temperatures of -7 resulted in a mixture of black ice and a hoar frost, combined with a low winter morning sun made riding conditions challenging. I am pleased to say that there were no issues as we cycled along. I cannot comment on the country side as all eyes were fixed down on the road to avoid the sun and to look out for ice.

The very low over night temperatures and other early morning commitments had kept the start numbers low, fortunately Graham had planned a route which at the half way point took us through Saffron Walden which is only a couple of miles from the start point. The coffee stop was at Bicicletta. At this stage we were joined by additional riders Geoff, Nigel and Deborah. Howard also joined the group for a coffee and catch up. Howard is off to New Zealand soon and so did not want to risk joining us on the bike.

As we were getting ready to set off for the only incident of the ride took place. It was clear that Martin had been well briefed about the tradition of new comers doing some thing on their first ride that other riders will remember. In the past we have had locked bikes with no keys, punctures which could not be repaired to name a couple. Martin decided on one of the favourites, an involuntary dismount. This was a standing dismount and I am pleased to say no damage was done to person or equipment.

With the group having grown we split into two groups. The first group led by Alan and the other by Graham. After a couple of miles the first group was joined by Hazel.

Both groups made it back safely to the Crown at Little Walden with no further incidents. At the pub we were joined by Victor, Maurice and Ken.

This was the first time we had visited this pub so we were all wondering what to expect. The omens were good as the car park was full and so it turned out was the pub. I am pleased to say it did not disappoint excellent food, good portions, fair price and a good friendly service. We will be back.

Martin enjoys his first lunch with fellow Windmillars.

Thanks to Graham for planning an other excellent ride.