. . . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As for the pharmacy beyond Pluto, that turned out to be a café in Waterbeach called, well, Pharmacie.
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.
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.
Rest assured, next Thursday’s ride will be restricted to East Anglia.
With Maurice out of action for a while and Dawg experiencing a series of mishaps and away-days, the organisation of this trip fell to The Reverend (Martin). A brief exploration during the week and consultation with his walking/dining club highlighted a new pub, ‘The Red Lion’ in Great Sampford. This is run by the former tenants of ‘The Gate’ in Saffron Walden. They demonstrated that they were able to transfer the production of excellent Italian food and super-efficient service to their new location.
A large turnout required splitting the group into three pelotons. It was a 35mile ride anti-clockwise round this circuit. I had somehow got into the first group which proceeded at lightning speed, mostly led by Hazel but with Alan, Graham, Howard and Jenni hanging in there. Luckily, I was on my carbon fibre racer.
I do remember seeing Castle Hedingham flash by in the corner of my eye. Charles, Geoff, Rod, Ken, and Keith however stopped to absorb some of its 800-year history. Robert de Vere (note the Norman name) who owned the castle at Hedingham in 1215 was one of the 25 barons who were sufficiently upset with King John, to risk death in forcing the King to sign the Magna Carta. He had raised their taxes. Most revolutions start that way of course; Wat Tyler′s rebellion (pol tax), French Revolution, American Revolution, Russian Revolution …. Wikipedia lists another 300 or so more, in just about every country in the world. I wonder, has there ever been a revolution about anything other than tax?
For those interesting in such things, only three clauses in the Magna Carta still remain in law: the freedom of the Church of England, the liberties of the ‘square mile’ (City of London) and our freedom from unlawful imprisonment. So here is today’s quick question, which part of the UK is not governed by the democratic principle of one citizen one vote? Answer, local government in ‘The City’. Which has its own mayor and police but not the inconvenience of voting.
Halfway coffee and cake were at Spencer’s Farm Shop in Wickham StPaul. It has an extensive children’s play area, but little people had got there first, and we were unable to get on anything so had to make do with just our drinks. Graham spotted a new WINDMILL and did it justice with a super photo. At least somebody is keeping look-out and taking club responsibilities seriously. I see one group also stopped at one of our perennial favourites. My group didn’t do stopping.
It has been extremely dry, and the harvest has come in early this year. A parked combine harvester allowed us to combine a close-up of the machinery with one of happy members of our group. The clay is so dry and cracked that Alan could park his bike in the fissures opened up by the drought-like conditions. I marvelled at the teeth on this thing, making a mental note never to get run down by one.
Safely back at the Red Lion before the worst of the mid-day heat a drink or two was called for. Maurice met us back at the pub ready to enjoy that part of the day. The food was a level above the usual and service very prompt. We count ourselves lucky to have so much good cycling and visitable pubs within a short drive of home.
With Maurice being out of action a volunteer was required to plan and lead this ride. Up stepped Charles, with many years of service in the Army he was confident this would be an easy assignment!
At the appointed location (the Red Cow) 15 minutes prior to the selected departure time 16:00 hours. Riders Alan, Martin, Nick, Rod, Sandra and Simon and observer Maurice met up in the car park. A few minutes later they were joined by Charles who had brought along some additional military reinforcement in the form of his brother John (ex RAF).
John is usually based in Wimbledon and cycles on Hampstead Heath. Charles had persuaded John to join us on the ride. It had not started well with John making a crash landing as he got on his bike on Charles’s drive. But he is made of tough stuff and elected to proceed with the ride.
Peloton on parade.
At exactly 16:00 Charles led the peloton out the car park. Announcing that any late comers would have to catch us up.
On leaving the pub car park we turned left which was a deviation from the planned route. Not to worry as a turn down Chalky Lane got us back on track.
One mile down the road we realised that Rod was not with us. His chain had come off at the bottom of Bury Lane. The rest off us pulled of the road and waited. After a few minutes Charles went back to find out what was going on. About 5 minutes later Rod appeared with Graham and Charles. Getting Rods chain on turned out to be complicated that simply putting back on. It had become jammed. Fortunately Charles being prepared got his rubber gloves out and got the chain and managed to free it without getting his hands covered in oil.
Bike repaired and with a full peloton we set off. After a few miles and a few hills we stopped again as realised thatJohn had dropped off the back. It seems the hill around here are a little more challenging than Hampstead Heath. Alerted to the fact John was not as fast up the hill Charles was able to give his brother a helping hand to get up the hills.
The ride wandered about the Essex lanes with everyone enjoying the warm late afternoon sunshine.
As we made our way along the ride the group members set their own pace resulting a few gaps. As the tall enders Alan, Charles and John descended Long Lane we came across Simon and Graham by the roadside. Simon had a punctured tyre, unfortunately he had changed his choice of bike at the last minute before the ride and had forgotten to attach his saddle bag. Simons bike was of a certain vintage and did not have quick release wheels and so tools were required to remove the wheel. As it was the rear tyre that had punctured it was all a bit messy. The wheel was removed and the tube replaced with a spare from Graham’s bike, which was not idea as Simon’s bike was a tourer. So a skinny tube was used. Graham was on a tight time line so he headed off home and John started on his way back to the Red Cow leaving Charles and Alan helping to sort out getting the bike on the road.
Once the bike was road worthy again Simon’s hands were covered in oil. Charles hands remained clean as he had his trusted rubber gloves on. Simon was struggling to get his hands cleaned with dock leaves. Charles came to the rescue again with sun location which proved to be an effective if expensive way of removing oil from hands.
Off we set again, only to stop again Simon had an other puncture. As we were just a mile from home Charles decided the best course of action was to nip home and get his car to rescue Simon. Alan and John sped off to the pub.
Charles and Simon arrived about 10 minutes later with Simon’s bike on the back off the car.
Over the next 45 minutes and a couple of pints we filled in Maurice with the rides events.
Thanks to Charles for organising a lovely ride and his support helping John up the hills and fixing the mechanicals. It maybe a few weeks before he volunteers to lead another ride.
Maurice was due to take part in this ride but, sadly, his right hip and left knee were both playing up again and so he came to collect our fivers and wave us on our way around the lanes. We wish him well as he discusses his future options with his specialist but, judging by past experience, it won’t be long before he’s out on his bike again should replacements be necessary.
Andrew led the way from The Red Cow accompanied by Charles, Rod, Sandra, Alan and Martin. Nick was due to take part but had also been suffering from knee issues and so opted for a shorter ride, seen riding in the opposite direction near Meesden.
This is where we went, anticlockwise:
England in August is a great place to be, inland, and this ride proved the point – blissfully quiet lanes, golden colours (amplified by the drought) and strong smells of fresh harvesting. What could be better?
Riding at a leisurely pace provided time to stop and admire sights often passed at speed:
Having planned a longer than usual ride for a Monday, thirsts were beginning to make themselves known just before passing The Bull at Langley Lower Green (funny, that) and so there was nothing for it but to do some quenching at this lovely pub, with a round of drinks generously bought by Andrew. Cheers Dawg! Good to have you out with us again after a period of absence for various reasons including the ladder incident.
Alan and Charles peeled off at Chrishall which left Andrew, Sandra, Rod and Martin to continue soaking up the evening sun at The Red Cow. True to form, Andrew got chatting to another couple who lived in Thriplow, one of whom was a cyclist, and discovered they knew many people in common. What a schmoozer he is!
Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organing the ride and Charles for some of the photos.
Sadly, we had to say farewell today to Brian, Joyce and Amy of The Plough in Rede, which has become one of our favourite pubs. After 40 years of running the pub, seven days a week with hardly a break, retirement has loomed for Brian and Joyce and they are off soon to start a new life whilst they are both fit and healthy. We wish them a long and happy retirement.
Nine Windmillers gathered at The Plough at 8.45am for an earlier than usual ride to Lavenham and back. Fortified by coffee the group comprising Maurice, Howard, Jeremy, Nigel, Alan, Rod, Simon, Jenni and Martin set off in a clockwise direction around familiar Suffolk lanes but it wasn’t long before Graham came steaming up behind, having started from Ickleton at 6.30am and breakfasted in Newmarket. He and Hazel are neck and neck in the running for the most pedalled miles in 2022.
This is the route we took:
The highlight of the ride was meeting a lady in Lavenham from Rwanda, Jo Nicholas, who is responsible for National Cycling Tourism Strategy in Rwanda. Jo took a great interest in The Windmill Club and will be posting a photo of Windmillers on a website to show how clubs operate in the UK. Fame and recognition at last! Jo said what a friendly country Rwanda was and cyclists are welcomed everywhere. There’s a big cycle event planned for 2025 and Windmillers would be welcome to attend. How about it? Return ticket guaranteed.
The National Trust coffee shop in Lavenham is always a delightful place to chill out whilst half way round a ride, and this day was no exception.
Back at The Plough after a very pleasant, event-free, ride it was with a mixture of pleasure and sorrow to sit down for the last time in the rear garden to enjoy some wonderful food and good beer. We shall miss Brian, Joyce and Amy.
Thanks go as always to Maurice and Andrew for organising us.
The Duddenhoe Delta was bound to catch us out sometime and this proved to be the day when it happened. The multitude of lanes leading out of the village, Mississippi-style, creates endless combinations of returning to The Red Cow in Chrishall, and we probably tried them all thanks to the rare event of rain after leaving Arkesden.
Maurice led the way followed by Simon, Alan, Ken and Martin on an AC circuit taking in Great Chishill, Nuthamstead, Meesden, Clavering, Arkesden and Duddenhoe End. This is where we went:
The first black cloud was seen whilst stopping at the junction shown above but it wasn’t until after we had passed through Arkesden that the first drops of rain were felt.
Stopping for a combination of donning wet weather gear, or having a pee, resulted in Simon doing neither and pedalling on ahead on his Howard-created speed machine. That was the last we saw of him until The Red Cow but he claimed not to have got wet at all. Which route through the Duddenhoe Delta he took we never discovered. Ken, Alan and Martin then followed, suitably protected from the rain which, as usual, stopped within a couple of minutes, leaving Maurice to catch up in sport mode on his e-bike. But which way through the delta? Up the High Street and down to Lower Pond Street was the decision made, not realising that Maurice had a different plan which was to head for Elmdon and down the byway through the woods to Chrishall, clocking up exactly 20 miles compared to the others who shaved off a mile.
So, eventually all met up once again for a very welcome pint back at The Red Cow.
Thanks, Maurice, for organising the ride, and Alan for the drinks.
Thursday morning saw the Windmillers gathering at one of their favourite watering holes, The Golden Fleece in Braughing. With some arriving on two wheels, others on four, soon there were a dozen cyclists milling around the car park, perusing menus, ordering lunches, applying suntan lotion and generally getting ready for the ride ahead.
And then we were off – Maurice leading the first group, Martin the second – heading for Puckeridge and thence Standon where, ignoring the Road Closed signs and taking the security guards by surprise, we skirted the Standon Calling festival venue. With the music kicking off tomorrow the organisers were busy putting the finishing touches to the site ahead of an expected 15,000 visitors and a line-up including Madness and the Sugar Babes.
The other highlight of our outing was the delightful 5 mile riverside ride along the towpath between Stanstead Abbotts and Hertford – which included our midway stop for coffee and cake at the excellent Ware Café.
Refreshed, we made short work of the return leg to Braughing, looking forward to a beer – courtesy of Ric, this week’s birthday boy – and a fine lunch at the Fleece.
For the record the turnout was: Brian, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon and Tom – and we clocked up just over 33 miles.
Thanks as ever to Maurice for planning the outing, to Martin for the many photographs, more of which you will find here in the club album, and to Ric for the beers. Happy birthday, old timer!
Little were we aware of the musical talents of Windmillers until our new quartet of Rod, Simon, Andrew and Alan performed around the Steinway grand piano at Stapleford Granary, but only in air mode. The potential is clearly there for a full blown concert at a future date. Maybe they could start with this one:
Starting from The Pheasant in Great Chishill for a change was a bit like the old days when Simon and Ollie were in charge and it was interesting to see the changes carried out both internally and externally. Besides The Windmill Quartet, other participants were Andrew, Roger, Ric, Graham, Martin, Jeremy, Brian, Ken and Ann, the latter three starting at Stapleford. This is where we went, clockwise:
The first stop caused a traffic jam outside Lawrence’s house in Fowlmere when we knocked on his door for a chat. He was just about to leave with a friend to study an organ in Pampisford – the new quartet would benefit from becoming a quintet as Lawrence is the only Windmiller known to be really capable of tinkling the ivories.
Speeding along on flat roads with a tail wind on this fine day, it wasn’t long before Stapleford Granary came into view, complete with its spanking new coffee shop and covered awning, all ready for a Stapleford Village Day on the following Sunday (where a brilliant band, Mishra, hailing from Sheffield, played a fusion of folk and Indian music).
After excellent coffee and cakes we had to drag ourselves away for the return leg via the off-road path to Babraham and then back via Sawston, the bike path to Whittlesford, Duxford, Ickleton (where Ric peeled off back to Harston), Elmdon and Heydon, making a very pleasant circuit of 28 miles in all.
Back at The Pheasant, the London Pride was as good as ever and lunch was taken outside on the new terrace behind the pub – all very tasteful and we wish the new management every success.
Thanks to Andrew for organising the ride and also Brian and Graham for the photos.
Freshly back from their 328 mile ride from Calais to Dieppe via WW1 and WW2 sites The Three Musketeers of the Windmill Club, namely Simon, Alan and Martin, met up again to discuss their conquests and tales of fine food and wines on this evening ride around the lanes. Accompanying them around France was Generale Lawrence de V Wragg in his wagon who very kindly carried their bags, dirty washing and acted as interpreter during the friendly encounters with local people.
Choosing the later time of 6.00pm to start the ride from The Red Cow in Chrishall, due to the high temperatures forecasted for earlier in the afternoon, resulted in just The Three Musketeers taking part. And at 28C it was still quite warm but on a bike it felt pleasantly cool as we cruised around the lanes taking in the sights and sounds of harvesting just getting underway, in contrast to Northern France where the harvest was in full swing two weeks previously.
This is where we went, clockwise:
The warm evening provided a good excuse to call in for refreshment at The Bull in Langley Lower Green before returning to Chrishall, bidding farewell to Alan as he climbed back to Great Chishill.
For those who might like to take a peek at the photos taken on the French trip, here is a link:
One of the highlights was on Day 1 when we found time to visit the Blockhaus near St.Omer, a spectacular concrete bunker where Hitler planned to assemble V2 rockets and manufacture liquid oxygen for use against London, Antwerp and other targets. But it was never completed as the RAF and USAF bombed it to blazes in August 1943 – nearly 400 bombs in under an hour which created earthquake-size tremors. A tall-boy bomb administered a fatal blow and the damage can still be clearly seen. Take a trip there the next time you’re cruising down the Autoroute des Anglais from Calais to Reims – you won’t be disappointed. On Day 2 we visited La Coupole, a similar project which was dome shaped and designed to deflect bombing but that was only just completed as the war was coming to an end, with huge technical obstacles on the supersonic V2 rockets to overcome. The slower V1 rockets were very effective, carried a heavier bomb and could be launched from a ramp hidden in a forest, accelerating from 0-60mph in 2 seconds, twice as fast as a Tesla.
Day 3 involved visiting several WW1 sites including Thiepval, Lochnagar Crater and Andrew’s Great Uncle Louis’s grave (with a Private Woodhead spotted by Simon buried in the same row). Day 4 took as to the site of the battle of the St. Quentin canal, towards the end of the war, where we stood on the same spot that Napolean III used when he opened a 3.5 mile long tunnel to connect the Parisian and Northern French river basins. On Day 5 Lawrence joined us on his bike for a ride along a canal path before returning to collect his car whilst The Three Musketeers got a drenching en route to Pierrefonds with its massive chateau which must have influenced Walt Disney. Day 6 was a memorable ride into Normandy when Goldilocks Lawrence, as he has since become known, spent the afternoon sleeping in the wrong B&B, where there was no sign of the owner when he arrived or when he left to join us at the correct B&B. Day 7 was a pleasant ride through Normandy, picking up the smooth Paris – Dieppe Route Verte on a disused railway line on the last stretch and Day 8 was a short trip to Dieppe to catch the 11.00am ferry to Newhaven.
This is a draft of the route, subsequently amended from Day 5 onwards to take in Pierrefonds and Compiegne. The total ascent was approx. 4,000m not 2297ft!
All for one and one for all! That seems to be a motto of The Three Musketeers which is particularly apt for The Windmill Club.
With so many of our pals away on holiday, Thursday’s peloton was a relatively small affair of just six Windmillers: Brian, Geoff, Howard, Ken, Maurice and Sandra.
Setting off from The Henny Swan – that’s in Henny Street, near Sudbury – it was only a few miles before we left the road to follow the old Stour Valley Line. Originally connecting the London to Cambridge and London to Colchester lines, the railway ran from Brian’s village of Shelford, South Cambs, to Marks Tey in Essex. Alas it closed in 1967, but its legacy is an excellent off road cycleway.
Leaving the trackway at Melford Country Park, we took to the roads again and headed east via Great Waldingfield to Kersey where, rather than visit the village, we carried on half a mile and pulled in at Kersey Mill for refreshment.
Back on the bikes we made the return leg via Stoke-by-Nayland, Bures and Lamarsh, arriving back at the Henny Swan for a slap up lunch in the garden.
To cap it all, Sandra – with her big birthday only days away – bought us all a beer. Cheers, Sandra, and many happy returns.
Thanks, Maurice, for planning and leading the way on such a delightful, traffic-free route.
It was one of those outings when we didn’t quite all manage to meet up. This week’s loose canon was Rod who, arriving late at the start, quite reasonably assumed the best way to intercept the peloton would be to set off in the opposite direction and catch us coming t’other way. Alas, we were not privy to Rod’s cunning plan.
So there we were, sipping coffee at Café 33, next door to HMP Highpoint, when there was a fleeting glimpse of a yellow and black-clad cyclist speeding past, but heading east.
“Was that, Rod?” asked Maurice.
“Can’t be – he’s going the wrong way,” replied Brian.
Back at West Wratting and checking our phones over a beer, we realised it had indeed been Rod we saw earlier. He did eventually return to the pub only to find most of us had had our lunch and gone home. And the poor guy also missed out on a free beer, courtesy of Geoff, this week’s birthday boy.
That aside, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Ric, Victor – and even Rod – enjoyed a splendid, 30-odd mile outing in delightful Suffolk countryside.
And Rod did at least get back to West Wratting in time for a drink with Graham, who had dawdled over his beer, and Ken, who had driven over for a late lunch.
Thanks, as ever, to Maurice, for planning everything – and to Geoff for the beer.
PS We are always on the lookout for windmills, interesting old churches and the like. But did you know there was an ancient cattle pound right under our noses in West Wratting? Me neither. Ric and I stumbled upon it while riding back from Thursday’s outing. It’s not much to look at – and I can’t find anything about it on the web – but in the absence of a windmill it will have to do as this week’s curiosity piece.
This club will go a long way for a good ride, and this was proven true yet again with this week’s effort. We got up ready for a 7.30 (am!) start, despite having attained the hallowed status of ‘pensioners’, then drove right across Essex. Many members shared cars and we packed into the YMCA carpark while making them a donation. It was good to see Mike again after his move to this part of the country.
Brightlingsea was a renowned oyster fishery. After lunch, Martin was able to vouch for the continuing quality of their output. The town is also famous for the Battle of Brightlingsea in 1995. This was 9 months of protest against the export of live animals from the town for slaughter in Europe. In all 598 people were arrested, of whom 421 were local residents. Both the media and the authorities were “taken by surprise by the intensity of support” which “challenged the…stereotype of the typical animal rights protestor”. That organ of loony left-wing propaganda, The Daily Telegraph, characterised the protestors as “middle class, moral and mad as hell”. Tilly Merritt, a 79-year-old local woman, was convicted of assaulting a police constable by spraying him with water from a garden hose. She was sentenced to 2 days imprisonment, having refused to pay a fine. She was released when well-wishers paid while she waited in the prison van taking her to Holloway. The campaigners eventually won, and the live exports ceased.
Riding clockwise we enjoyed the sight of the UK’s largest village green at Great Bentley. Other contenders include West Auckland and Old Buckenham, but at 22 acres Great Bentley is the biggest. We soon arrived at the halfway point, Walton-on-the-Naze. Naze, derived from Old English næss “ness, promontory, headland”. The tower was built as a sea-mark to assist ships on this otherwise fairly featureless coast. The area is prone to coastal erosion. The medieval village of Walton now lies nine miles out to sea. The Naze is eroding at about 2 metres per year. WWll cliff-side pill-boxes are now located on the beach.
The cliffs are composed of a 2-million-year-old rock-type called Red Crag on top of a base of London Clay, which is 54 million years old. Red Crag contains many fossils including gastropod shells, sharks’ teeth, and whale bones.
Fortified by cake and drinks we set off down the coastal-path through Frinton, Holland-on-sea, via Gunfleet and on to Clacton. These are rather up-market seaside towns. Especially the rather austere Holland-on-sea with manicured coastal parks and no seaside pubs. Still Clacton looks enjoyable with its pier and tidy beachside area.
And from Clacton you can see wind turbines! Being a forward-looking club, we have accepted these as almost as good as Windmills. And as you would expect we are indeed obsessed by Windmills.
The Gunfleet array is visible from Clacton Pier and consists of 48 turbines. Since 2010 it has produced 500 GWh at £122 per MWh. Is that a lot I hear you ask? No, it isn’t, since the UK needs 300,000 GWh, so it’s 0.16% but it is not the only array on this bit of coast and the power is cheap, clean and made near where it is to be used.
The areal shot is of the several other larger arrays off this bit of coast. Authoritative, Lazard’s investment bank, analysis shows just how cheap ‘alternative’ power has become. Those living in low lying areas around the coast her may find power from CO2 producing, natural gas isn’t as cheap as it looks on this graph, having paid for flood insurance. Economists and their ‘externalities’ (aka. other people’s costs) aren’t helping the reputation of experts in general. One of the most famous of them said the quality of their ‘science’ was ‘dismal’. I don’t demure from that, I just object to them calling it a science.
By way of contrast our next destination on the coast was Jaywick. Having measured the states of deprivation across 32,844 areas in the country, researchers concluded that this is the most deprived region. Originally it was built as a holiday resort just before World War II. The war resulted a housing shortage and so the camp became permanent. The original lay-out was in the shape of a car radiator grille, with the roads named after various vehicle manufacturers. East End’ers were sold small plots and encouraged to self-build. What could possibly go wrong with that during the post-war shortage of materials? The plans for landscaping the development, along with a lake and a sports centre, strangely never materialised after the plots had been sold.
The local authority points out that the properties are sited on marshland, road improvements have a short lifespan and are quickly damaged by bad weather. In 1953 flooding killed 35 people. There were also evacuations in December 2013 and January 2017 with schools and other expensive infrastructure devastated. With poor roads and little other transport, a 2011 report saw 62% of working age residents receive benefits, compared a 15% national average. Absentee landlords find buying houses here cheap and that the rents then get paid as part of benefits, thus extracting easy money from the taxpayer. Nor is living in Jaywick much fun. A 2013 fresh-food survey found only “a bag of blackened bananas” and “potatoes at £2.29 per 2kg” within 1 mile of its centre. But then who would build a shop in a poor area that gets flooded every 4 years? Health costs are also high per capita. So, the “red tape” of planning permission saves us all money in the end. Wow what a surprise? Must get round to reading the Grenfell report.
Along the way we also saw Martello towers. These are named after the original one at Mortella (Myrtle) Point, Corsica but, they got the name wrong, misspelling “Mortella” as “Martello” which means “hammer” in Italian. The towers are 12M high with walls about 2.5M thick. Entry is by ladder to a door about 3M from the base. The garrison of 24 men and one officer lived on the first floor. The officer and men lived in separate rooms of almost equal size it is proudly noted noted in the historical write-up. Nothing much has changed then, with modern flats about the size of 1/24 of the size of a proper house.
On our way back to Brightlingsea we passed through St Osyth, named after a 7th-century princess and saint. She was forced into an unwanted marriage and ran off while her husband was hunting. She then persuaded two local bishops to accept her vows as a nun. Her husband returned, and after a polite but brief protest, he granted her some land where she established a convent. She was later beheaded by some raiding pirates, while resisting being carried off. Oh dear, never would have predicted that, on the coast and in such a remote bit of Essex. Still in the intervening 1300 years women have evolved safer, more low-key excuses; periods of inconvenience, headaches and urgent demands on their time, such as knitting and listening to the Archers
The return to Brightlingsea required a ferry ride. We had to take our bikes onto a small sand bank in the estuary to be picked up. The tide was coming in rapidly and the first group arrived at the pick-up almost dry while the second group needed to wade.
The pub had excellent food and a great view. This was a brilliant day out and thanks to Maurice and Martin for their organisation
Maurice, Charles (never underestimate him, as he warns on his shirt), Rod, Alan, Simon and Martin all set off from The Red Cow in Chrishall on this fine summer’s afternoon knowing that it would be a test for Maurice, whose left knee has been giving him issues recently, but not expecting Alan, Rod and Simon to be in testing mode too of a different sort.
In preparation for his forthcoming French ride with Simon, Lawrence and Martin, Alan came with his Giant touring bike to test it out on the hills. It has a monstrously low bottom gear which should see him climb all those French hills in the Somme and Normandy with ease, and with tyres which will soak up the bumps on river and canal bike paths.
So off we went on a circuit devised by Maurice taking in local lanes to Brent Pelham and back including, once again, our favourite bridleway from Builden End over the watershed to Lower Langley.
Rod looked at one stage as if he was planning a bank robbery with a fast escape on his e-bike but he was actually testing out an anti-fly swallowing device, namely a mask to keep ’em out.
And then there was Simon, testing out a smart looking shirt and clearly determined to take on the French at their own game:
The school run was over, the lanes were quiet and we enjoyed a very pleasant cruise. Thankfully, Maurice’s knee held out.
This is where we went:
Thanks to Maurice for planning and organising the route. We hope his knee gets sorted soon. And thanks to Grandpa Charles for most of the photos.
This was always the highlight of the Windmill Club year but, thanks to the pandemic, we hadn’t ridden into London since April 2019. So it was with eager anticipation that we met up once again at the White Water Centre, Waltham Abbey, to cycle down the Lee Valley and reacquaint ourselves with the Thames riverside.
Ten Windmillers – Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Howard, Jeremy, Maurice, Rod, Roger and Simon – set off down the towpath on a sunny Thursday morning, passing under the M25, heading south towards Enfield and Tottenham. As ever, there was plenty to see along the riverside – horses, herons and houseboats – while mindful of the need to duck under bridges, rattle over cobbles and generally keep an eye out for dogs, mooring spikes and oncoming cyclists.
After some 15 miles we left the towpath, Maurice leading the way, on a convoluted but traffic-free route to Royal Docks where we pulled in for coffee and cake at Caffé Fratelli.
From there we took the Emirates Skyline cable car to Greenwich. It’s a pity the future of this spectacular crossing – lofting us high over the river and affording fabulous views of the London skyline – is in doubt, as earlier this year Emirates announced they would not be renewing their sponsorship and would also close the adjacent Aviation Experience. Let’s hope Transport for London finds another sponsor soon.
Alighting on the south side, we followed the cycleway around the Greenwich peninsula to the Old Royal Naval College – pausing for the usual photograph with Nelson – and the Cutty Sark.
Then it was along the south bank via Deptford and Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge. It was here that we tangled with the only heavy traffic of the day but, forming a sizeable, if somewhat ragged peloton, we kept the taxis and trucks at bay until, reaching the north bank we turned eastwards into St Katherine Docks. It was time for lunch – at The Dickens Inn.
Revived by beer and pub nosh, we set off and wound our way through the historic lanes of Wapping and Shadwell to Limehouse Basin. From here we were waterside all the way back, along the Regent’s Canal, Hertford Union Canal and the final 12 miles back up the Lee Valley.
Arriving back at Waltham Abbey, it was with some surprise that we found Deborah and Rod were missing. How on earth can you get lost on the towpath? It turned out they had somehow diverted into a large industrial estate where they were not only accosted, but also roundly abused by an irate security guard. Glad to say, they eventually found their way back to endure some good-natured ribbing from the rest of us.
What a fantastic day! A huge thanks to Maurice for planning everything and leading the way.