19 March. Corona virus. No Windmill Club rides for the forseeable future.

Due to the rapid spread of the Corona Virus and advice received from the Government and Cycling UK, there will be no organised Windmill Club rides for the forseeable future. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. For those wishing to keep in touch via WhatsApp, please contact Andrew.

Here’s a short video to help keep the Corona Man away:

 

 

16 March. Springwatch. 21 miles.

Thanks to having eagle-eyed Sandra with us on this ride we were treated to a springtime display of wildlife as we cruised around the lanes. Starting from The Bull once again at Lower Langley and led by Maurice, the others joining him were Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin – 7 in all.

This is where we went, anti-clockwise:

Bull circuit 16 March 2020

The first creature that Sandra spotted, shortly after leaving, was standing on a bank clad in hi-viz yellow and coughing furiously as we went past. Hey, that’s not an animal we said, it’s the self-isolating Corona Man himself, Andrew. Indeed it was but we didn’t stop for a chat in case he got too close. We expected him to tag along behind at an acceptable distance but he was heading in the opposite direction. Luckily, it seems Andrew did not pick up the virus whilst visiting Northern Italy for a skiing holiday but he and Lindsay were forced to self-isolate for 2 weeks on their return, and today he was half way through.

Proceeding on towards Shaftenhoe End Sandra then spotted a large herd of deer, as big as the one seen last week at Catmere End but without the albinos – frequently seen around Elmdon but very rare. In the US it is illegal in many states to shoot albino deer as they are estimated to be as rare as 1 in 100,000.

Passing through Barkway and Reed we crossed the A10 and headed towards Therfield before turning left towards Buckland.

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Stopping to enjoy the spring sunshine near Therfield. 

The star spot by Sandra was a massive barn owl, with a head the size of a football and a large wingspan, which took off just as we were approaching Buckland. Sadly no time to take a photo. Then Sandra spotted two more large herds of deer, grazing quite close to each other, by which time we were convinced that she could easily join the BBC Springwatch team.

Re-crossing the A10 at a not particularly pleasant junction we meandered on admiring the countryside which was bursting with vigour. Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a drink outside, keeping our distance, until it got so cold we just had to occupy the empty public bar to warm up!

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Keeping our distance outside The Bull

Thanks to the rapid spread of the Corona virus, there was an acceptance that this could be the last Windmill Club ride for a while, which turned out to be the case, but we agreed that we would find ways and means of still getting out on our bikes in the weeks ahead.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride and organising us.

Martin

 

9 March. Corona ditty ride. 30 miles.

The Corona virus, what virus? Nothing stops fit and healthy Windmillers from getting out on a ride, but we were not to know that Andrew would soon be the first to self-isolate having been evacuated from his ski resort near Turin following a total shut down of Italy. So, taking The Bull by the horns six Windmillers comprising Maurice, Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin gathered at Langley Lower Green for a pleasant ride around quiet and dry lanes.

This is where we went, clockwise:

Bull circuit 9 March 2020

This week there was an equal number of e-bikes to traditional bikes but e-bikers are generally very considerate of their hard pedalling companions, with Rod always at the back as a sweeper upper. A few tow ropes would have come in handy too, particularly on the climb to Great Chishill.

The weather was kind and so we made good progress to Elmdon and beyond, stopping for a breather at Catmere End where a large herd of deer was spotted munching away on tasty young oil seed rape:

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A herd of Windmillers
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A herd of deer

Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end of the ride whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a pint with the locals around the bar. Charles left a bit earlier to go Scottish Country dancing. Martin claimed he was still going to Les Gets on Thursday and would miss Maurice’s birthday party ride which prompted Maurice to buy him a pint. But having cancelled the trip on Wednesday Maurice generously bought him another pint on Thursday. Good chap!

Here’s a little ditty I’ve composed that we might all sing along to on our future rides, using the music and some of the lyrics from the TV Corona advertisements of the 50s, which some of us vulnerable people might remember. It goes like this:

The Corona Man he’s in your street

The Corona Man you don’t want to meet

So wash your hands several times a day

And the Corona Man will fuck off.

 

Thanks, Maurice for organising the ride!

Martin

 

12 March. Celebrating Maurice’s birthday. 30 miles.

There’s not a lot to celebrate at present what with the Corona virus spreading like wildfire, the stock market crashing and jobs at risk. But it was great that 13 Windmillers were able to gather together, fit and able, to celebrate Maurice’s 76th birthday and to join him on a windy day around windy lanes (geddit?), and for another 5 to join us at lunch time. The thought of Pat’s pies and curries at the Pig and Abbott in Abington Piggotts and a birthday pint from Maurice was an added incentive, and having coffee and biscuits before setting off is always a bonus.

Sadly, we were without Andrew who was in enforced self-isolation for 2 weeks with Lindsey having had their skiing holiday curtailed in Sestriere in Northern Italy due to the Corona virus. So it was Ken, Rod, Ric, Roger, Simon T, Deborah, Graham, Geoff, Howard, Charles, Mike, David and Martin (having cancelled his ski holiday) who accompanied Maurice on a delightful if somewhat blowy day around the lanes to the north west of Abington Piggotts, a cunning route devised by Maurice to reduce the impact of the wind as much as possible.

This is where most of us went, clockwise, but some decided to cut the corner off to get to the coffee stop at Waresley first, either because they were out front and hadn’t read the map or because they were in need of an urgent caffeine fix, or both:

Maurice's birthday ride 12 March 2020

Some of the strongest wind was experienced soon after the start whilst heading towards Steeple Morden from Litlington, and so an early stop at the Memorial for the 355th Fighter Group provided welcome relief:

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Back row from the left: David, Mike, Simon, Roger, birthday boy Maurice, Ric, Geoff, Ken, Charles, Rod. Front row: Howard, Graham, Deborah

Continuing on, things soon improved after Steeple Morden as we headed north west towards Cockayne Hatley where another stop was made to take in the view:

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Cockayne Hatley in Bedfordshire – famous at one time for having the largest apple orchard in England with one million Cox’s Orange Pippin trees – grubbed up in 1974 as being uneconomic

Then it was back into the wind for a stretch towards Potton – Mind The Gap being the order of the day due to the strong gusts in between hedgerows – before getting some relief towards Gamlingay, where sensible types cut the corner and got to the coffee stop first. The others had a short monster hill to climb but were rewarded with a long downwind freewheel stretch that seemed to last for about a mile before entering Waresley.

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Springtime in Waresley

The coffee stop was the excellent Waresley Garden Centre, but like all garden centres these days it is quite difficult to find the gardening department………

Maurice already had thoughts of lunch in mind and so the order was given to saddle up and pedal on, passing picturesque Hatley St. George on the way and making generally easier progress. Almost bang on time at 12.30pm and almost exactly on 30 miles (how does he do it?) we rolled into The Pig and Abbott where the fire was roaring and where it was good to be joined by Brian, who had cycled over from Cambridge, Vernon, Simon O, John B and Bernard York, an old friend of Maurice with whom he cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats. It was good to hear from John about the progress of his recent hip operation, but trying to persuade John of the merits of e-bikes proved to be somewhat difficult.

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Maurice and friends Vernon, Mike, nephew David and Bernard on the top table
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Raising a glass to the birthday boy

A toast was also proposed by Rod to our absent friend, Andrew, who no doubt will be soon be giving us tips on how to survive two weeks of self-isolation – shooting pigeons appears to be one of his survival tips.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride, buying the drinks, and organising us all. Also thanks to Ken for taking a photo and Brian for the lunchtime pics. And congratulations to the usual hardy types, Graham and Ric, for riding to and from the meeting point, clocking up many more miles in the process.

Stay well.

Martin

PS. If you haven’t already joined the new Windmill Club WhatsApp group, you’re missing out on easy communications between members and some fine humour. Download the app and ask Andrew to add your mobile phone number.

 

 

 

5 March 2020: Wet? Not ‘arf!

Somewhere near Clavering – and dry thus far

The morning had started fair, twelve Windmillers exiting the Golden Fleece car park heading for Clavering. But poor old Maurice suffered an early setback when the e-part of his e-bike gave up the ghost and he was forced to return to the pub leaving us at the mercy of Andrew – who assured us he knew the route. We looked at our feet, “Mmmm, we’ll see.”

We needn’t have worried. We suspect he made it up as he went along but Andrew’s route, while distinctly wiggly, took us along quiet lanes in picturesque countryside.

27 miles anticlockwise – and looking a little lost around Clavering
Deborah and Graham circumventing a road closure

Sixteen miles in, we pulled up for refreshments at Poppy’s Barn, our first visit to this little gem of a tea room in the middle of nowhere; the tiny hamlet of Butt’s Green being the nearest habitation. The coffee and cake were exceedingly good and Graham spoke highly of the hot chocolate with marshmallow topping.

Graham’s sugar fix

We may have been cosy in Poppy’s but outside the weather had taken a turn for the worst; steady rain. Exiting the tearoom, we huddled under the barn eaves, donning oilskins and sou’westers while we contemplated our options. Go back inside and eat more cake? Send Sandra on alone to fetch her van? She didn’t like that idea at all. Resolute, we mounted our dripping wet bikes and – heads down – pedalled the 10 miles or so back to the pub.

Landlord Peter gave us a warm welcome and served up an excellent lunch; we particularly enjoyed his pie and a pint fare.

For the record, the 12 hardy Windmillers gently steaming in the Golden Fleece were: Maurice, Deborah, Andrew, Nigel, Ken, Martin, Sandra, Graham, Victor, Rod, Lawrence and Brian.

Despite the weather it was a very enjoyable outing. Many thanks to Andrew for improvising such a good route. Let’s do it again on a fine day.

Brian

2 March. More puddles. 20 miles.

Outnumbered by the e-bikes of Maurice, Rod and Nick, Andrew and Martin had to pedal extra hard to keep up with them on this ride around wet lanes. But would they get their comeuppance whilst traversing deep puddles and fords, we wondered? Would they short out? But no, e-bikes are clearly designed to withstand anything the English weather can throw at them and so they ploughed through regardless. It was only those wearing non-waterproof shoes who really suffered.

The weather has been particularly unkind to The Windmill Club on recent Mondays and Thursdays – perhaps members have been sinning more than usual? The poor old Essex fields had given up trying to soak up all the rain and so the ditches and streams were full to the brim with water, overflowing onto the roads in many places. But at least it had stopped raining for a while which enabled us to get out on our bikes and enjoy the sunshine.

The first wave of water to ride through was shortly after starting off from The Bull at Langley Lower Green whilst riding up the hill to Upper Green. Maurice, sporting a smart new pair of Schwalbe Marathons which Andrew had acquired for a bargain price, wanted to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering which some of us had visited the previous Thursday and although it was closed it was agreed that we would fit it into a Thursday ride as a coffee stop. Thereafter it was a question of dodging the puddles and fords whenever possible or cruising through them with legs raised in the air.

This is where we went:

Bull circuit 2 March 2020

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Puddles? Wot puddles? None here near Rickling Church.

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Chatting to a local armed with a rake to clear a culvert which would otherwise have flooded his house

The local chap in the above photograph turned out to be a keen cyclist who rode with another club which averaged around 16mph. He said discreetly that The Windmill Club was perhaps not for him!

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Martin in front of an extra large puddle

Nick peeled off towards Meesden whilst the others proceeded to The Bull to chew the cud over some fine beers, but taking care not to share any nuts in case the Corona Man had got there before us.

Thanks to Maurice for leading the way and to Andrew for organising us, and for the photos.

Martin

 

 

 

 

27 February. More dining, some riding. John B back.

Another week of cold and windy weather which resulted in Monday’s ride on 24 February not taking place also produced a morning of snow on this late February day.

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Charles’s garden in Chrishall – enough snow to deter anyone from riding a bike….

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……except, of course, Graham who was determined to get to The Red Cow by pedal power

Word was circulated by email and WhatsApp that the ride due to set off from The Red Cow at Chrishall was cancelled but with fine weather forecasted for later in the morning some brave souls besides Graham (Andrew, Ken, Ric, Charles and Martin), also decided to wend their way uphill to work up an appetite for lunch, and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.

The riders were joined by Simon T, Rod, Neil, Simon O, Brummie Brian and John B, who surprised us all with his appearance just 4 weeks after his hip operation. Here we all are enjoying a good lunch:

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John told us that he had been driving a car for the past two weeks and walking the dogs across the fields without a stick, let alone crutches. Probably all against doctor’s orders, but that’s John for you. Well done, John, and we look forward to seeing you on your bike again soon, perhaps an e-bike to start with?

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Graham about to set off after lunch

The sun was shining by now and so after bidding the others farewell, Ric and Charles made their own way home whilst Andrew, Ken, Graham and Martin set off down the hill to the Wendens Ambo – Great Chishill road. Ken peeled off at the junction whilst the others proceeded up to Builden End and continued on the byway towards Langley Lower Green and then to Upper Green in order to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering as a future coffee stop. And a fine place it turned out to be. Then it was on to Arkesden and over the hill towards Wendens Ambo where Andrew peeled off leaving Graham and Martin to climb Hill Bastardo with a fresh breeze coming off the open fields which at times assisted and other times hindered our efforts to return to Ickleton via Catmere End, clocking up 20 miles in all.

Thanks to Andrew for organising the lunch and enabling us to make the most of the day.

Martin