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Braughing

Odd sock shocker

Did he get dressed in the dark? Does Fiona know he’s out? Will the polo club turn him away? Such were the questions troubling the Windmillers on seeing Charles – normally the acme of sartorial elegance – turn up in odd socks.

That aside, it was another good turnout; 18 riders, some arriving on two wheels, others on four, as we gathered in the car park of the Golden Fleece, Landlady Jess taking our orders for lunch.

Maurice led the way northwards out of Braughing, momentarily confusing those of us whose GPX devices advised heading south. No matter, within half a mile both Maurice and satnavs were in agreement as we headed for the Pelhams and Rickling.

It was a longish first stage, Maurice having planned our refreshment stop at the Silver Leys Polo Club some 20 miles distant. The polo season was long over – but there was a dressage competition underway in the arena. Simon, ever keen to get in on the action, got a little too close and was asked to step back lest he spook the horses. He has a similar effect on car drivers.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were enjoying coffee and some very fine cake, made specially in anticipation of our visit by the lovely lady who runs the clubhouse. She regaled us with stories of horrendous polo injuries, her own included. It’s not just falls, they can suffer some nasty facial injuries when struck by the ball. Apparently it is impractical to wear cricket-style helmets and face guards as they raise the risk of a broken neck when you fall. This summer alone, the air ambulance has paid the club two visits. And they say cycling is dangerous.

Back on the bikes, we headed for Standon and Puckeridge before returning to Fleece where Pete and Jess served up another excellent lunch. This week’s birthday boy was Chris, who duly bought us all a beer.

Happy Birthday, Chris!

For the record, this week’s team roster was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff,Graham, John, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon, Suzanne and Victor.

Good to see John again

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for planning the route and arranging things at the polo club, Andrew for getting everyone organised, Chris for the beers, and Martin, Graham and Simon for the photographs (too many to include here but they’re all in the Windmill Club Photo Album).

Martin’s new haircut; it’ll look good when it’s finished
28 miles clockwise: Braughing – the Pelhams – Rickling – Rickling Green – Manuden – Hazel End – Upwick Green – Little Hadham – Silver Leys Polo Club – Standon – Puckeridge – Braughing

Brian

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30 September. Keep the flag flying! 32 miles.

Men of Essex were ticked off roundly it seems during World War 1 for not enlisting in their regiment, which had seen honours in Egypt, Gibraltar, the Battle of Waterloo and South Africa, amongst many other battles. So says the poster in The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, as well as reminding women to do women’s work. Not only that, but women are reprimanded in another poster for excessive drinking and asked to leave the pub after having had ‘reasonable refreshment’. Meanwhile, the South Midland Divisional Cyclist Company was recruiting enthusiastic cyclists to ‘cycle for the King’ and pedal abroad somewhere having been given a free bike, uniform and clothing. Furthermore, having bad teeth was not deemed to be an issue. What a fab deal, except the cycling probably involved ferrying messages from trench to trench in the battlefields, for which task having bad teeth was a minor problem except, perhaps, for those on the receiving end of the messages.

These eclectic posters which adorn the walls of The Chestnut Tree provide a stark reminder of how lucky we are not to have fought in any world wars, although Charles has of course been in the thick of it during his Army career. Well done, Charles; we salute you. Fortunately, women are allowed to stay longer in pubs too, whether or not they have consumed a large amount of alcohol, and those fond of cycling like Windmillers can go where they like, when they like, except they have to pay for their own bike these days.

Thus ended a repeat of a ride to Finchingfield and back attended by Maurice, Graham, Ken, Victor, Alan, Rod, Brian, Jeremy, Howard, Roger, Simon and Martin. Charles was due to take part too but somehow or other he left his helmet at home and felt naked without one. (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. So easily done. Ed.)

This is where we went:

It was a windy day and dry except for a few spots of rain whilst having coffee in Finchingfield.

A few old timers resting awhile in Finchingfield

Finchingfield is such a photogenic place that it’s no wonder the locals get a bit cheesed off at times with all the tourists. But it’s good business for the cafés and pubs.

The Parish Church of St Mary’s in West Wickham, dating from 1350, looking stark against an autumnal sky

Back at The Chestnut Tree we were joined for lunch by Suzanne, showing off her flashy new bike, and Geoff who had recovered from a back injury whilst weeding his garden – moral of the story, cycle don’t weed.

Suzanne’s new mile-eater – lifted with a little finger.

Yet another good lunch was consumed, washed down with some fine ales. How can one tire of such a place?

Thanks to Maurice for organising the ride, Graham for the gpx file and Brian for some of the photos.

Martin

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Missing Mondays

Some blog followers might be forgiven for thinking that Monday rides in August and September didn’t happen, but that’s not the case! It’s just that the blogmeisters didn’t get their act together, but holidays have taken their toll too. So here’s a summary of how Windmillers spent their Monday afternoons recently – far removed from what the Mamas and Papas thought of Mondays:

Every other day, every other day
Every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes
But whenever Monday comes, you can find me cryin’ all of the time

For those who wish to remember bopping along to the Mamas and Papas here’s a link to those ageing rockers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h81Ojd3d2rY

The last Monday blog was on 2 August. Since then:

9 August. Andrew, Charles, Nick, Rod Deborah and Alan set off from the Red Cow at 16.30 for a 21 mile ride to the power line capital of Essex, Stocking Pelham, and back.

Rumour has it that this is a photograph of Charles’s handlebars. He is indeed a limited edition.

16 August. Meeting again at The Red Cow at 16.30, Maurice led a ride with Sandra, Rod, Alan, Nick and Simon in tow on a magical mystery tour of the lanes – no sign of a map on WhatsApp but Great Chishill was clearly en route judging by this wonderful photo taken by Rod:

23 August. Not sure who attended or where they went but Andrew, Nick, Charles, Sandra, Maurice and Simon might have been amongst them.

Sandra in the pink on her gleaming Giant

30 August. Bank holiday Monday. No ride but some may have met up at the Upper Langley fete on Andrew’s recommendation for light sabre training and to feast on amazing cakes:

Towards the end of August news began to emerge of illness affecting Lawrence and Simon Oughton, both of whom were expecting to have operations in the coming weeks. We wish them both well and look forward to having them join us again once recovered. (Lawrence kept cycling throughout September and on Doctor’s orders, not to mention Nurse Elaine, has been piling on the calories.)

Maurice had a lucky escape at the end of August when his bike was hit by a maniac car driver as he was crossing the A1198 north of Royston and he got thrown off. He landed with a thump but promptly continued his journey to pick up his car and drove home. It was only later that shock set in and bruises began to appear but it could easily have been a lot worse. He needed a few days to recover, assisted by large quantities of pain killer.

6 September. With Maurice injured and Andrew away, Martin arranged a ride from The Bull at Lower Langley for a change but who should turn up – Maurice! It takes a lot to put a good man down. Accompanied by Charles, Sandra, Nick, Alan, Jenni, Simon, and Graham, the ride took place on a lovely evening and included an off-road section which was a good test for Maurice’s ribs.

13 September. Back to The Bull for a ride organised by Andrew with Charles, Nick, Rod, Jeremy, Simon, Deborah and Martin in tow. Luckily Violet’s Lane, known as the longest ford in Europe, was dry at the top end but Graham discovered what it can be like at times:

Graham up to his knees in Violet’s Lane in April this year

20 September. This was Black Forest week for Simon and Martin, Andrew was attending a bash at Rusack’s Hotel in St Andrew’s and Deborah was sunning herself in Spain. Maurice organised the ride, again from The Bull, and whizzed around the lanes with Charles, Rod, Nick, Alan and Graham in tow.

27 September. On yet another lovely September evening where better to start and end a ride? Yes, you guessed it, The Bull once again. It’s been good to re-aquaint ourselves in recent weeks with this unpretentious, quintessentially English country pub. Andrew was still away, this time quaffing port in Portugal, but Maurice, Charles, Rod, Alan, Sandra, Simon, Graham, Lawrence and Martin set off at the earlier time of 16.00 due to the days beginning to shorten and the shadows getting longer. Maurice put us through our paces with several bastardos to contend with and a high average speed but this just created more business for The Bull once we had returned. And it was great to have John Bagrie join us who had been doing his own thing, but threatening to join us on a Thursday ride. Riding in small groups of 6 / 7 makes life easier for all concerned, whether they be Windmillers, motorists or cafés – just like it used to be John!

Thanks go to the organisers of the recent Monday rides and to the photographers, particularly Charles.

Martin

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West Wratting and Finchingfield

Well the weather did us proud again ! Floods and downpours earlier in the week were replaced by a brisk breeze and sunshine for this Thursday’s ride. Once again, the Chestnut Tree in West Wratting hosted. After coffee, the 13 riders split into two groups (Maurice, Alan, Howard, Suzanne, Charles, Ken and Ric in the A team, Andrew leading the B team of Lawrence, Roger, Graham, Geoff and Rod).

Happily the stiff breeze was mainly across the predominantly North – South course and didn’t prove too distracting. The A group managed to miss the cut through from Howards Lane in Horseheath and group B nearly caught up.

A timely photo stop by Lawrence and a hedgerow cutting induced puncture to Graham ensured that the A group once again managed to establish a healthy lead. After two (!) inner tubes for Graham’s front wheel and tyre brand advice duly delivered by Andrew, B group got to Finchingfield for coffee and cake just as the A group were heading off.

All managed to regroup at the Chestnut Tree, however, for the now familiar excellent beer and food.

The smaller cycling home contingent this week (Howard, Suzanne, Ric, Graham) finally had to contend with the breeze in their faces.

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Therfield

Happy Birthday, Suzanne

Can it really be two years since our last visit to Therfield? It was good to be back, as the Windmillers, some arriving on two wheels, others on four, gathered in the car park of The Fox & Duck on a fine September morning. And it was another good turnout, some seventeen riders in all, namely: Alan, Brian, Charles, Chris, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Jeremy, Ken, Lawrence, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Rod, Simon and Victor.

We made our usual Keystone Cops-like attempt at forming three teams of similar size, the teams riding five minutes apart so as to (a) avoid unduly impacting the flow of traffic around Hertfordshire, and (b) avoid descending, locust like, on any tea room unfortunate enough to attract our attention.

Did it work? Well, kinda. While we did indeed avoid overwhelming any one hospitality venue by cleverly distributing ourselves between two of them, Church Farm, Ardeley, and the Westmill Tea Room, by the time we had arrived back in Therfield for lunch, two of the teams had merged into a disorderly rabble strung out over half a mile or so of minor road.

Cromer Windmill
Church Farm, Ardeley

That said, we all enjoyed a splendid morning’s ride, working up an appetite for an equally splendid lunch. Arriving at the pub, we were delighted to be joined by Suzanne, all the more so as – this being her birthday – she was very generously buying the beers.

Thanks are due to Maurice for planning the route – and we wish Suzanne a very happy and hearty birthday.

Birthday Girl, Suzanne
29 miles anticlockwise: Therfield – Sandon – Rushden – Cromer – Ardeley – Haultwick – Nasty – Westmill – Buntingford – Green End – Therfield

Brian

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9th September. Braughing to Silver Lees Polo Club

Having assembled at one of our favourite pubs, The Golden Fleece, we set off in good spirits on a warm September morning.

Howard ready for any length of ride.
Andrew leads another group. Then again he finds the fun only starts when you get lost. I’ve noticed though, he always gets back to the pub on time.
Chris enjoying the ride as always.

Maurice needed his spare electric bike back from Lawrence, his other one having been hit by a car. Lawrence undeterred by an imminent, major operation, made it round this 30 mile ride on a standard bike. An amazing effort, only slightly assisted by a gentle push from Charles on one or two of the hills. They displayed bravery and care for other club members in the highest traditions of the Windmillers.

Lawrence and Brian carefree cycling in warn autumn sunshine.
Howard and Paul looking like proper club cyclists
A cottage near Silver Lees Polo Club. Prototype for that of Bilbo Baggins.
Harvest is done and our world is full of new patterns. Some as big as whole landscapes and some so small you have to kneel down and look closely at them.

The highlight of this tour was the stop at The Silver Lees Polo Club owned by a mate of Maurice’s. Located in the verdant countryside to the west of Bishop’s Stortford. Despite the undoubted quality of our membership, only a few had been active polo players in their youth. Charles had played in 1977 in Quetta, Pakistan, during his military service. From the photos I see that grass was less plentiful there, but I am told that poppies do grow better.

A place devoted to the love of horses. They might be good fun, but they are also a bit scary.
Good jumping I’m told, but goodness knows what happens if you fall off. Are the hospitals ok in Quetta?
Charles, making friends with his horse. After all, its doing all the hard work.
Charles demonstrating the positive effects of a fry-up on longevity. Don’t believe what all those silly doctors tell you.

The lady making the coffees spoke English with a southern hemisphere accent. Andrew of course immediately placed her origin to a small area of hills on the Southern Cape. Cue a conversation about the fine wines and horse riding in that part of South Africa. He never ceases to amaze me.

A shoe-in for Windmill sculpture of the year.
Deborah and a puppy. It took some effort for her to leave it behind.
Rod and Ken enjoying mid-morning coffee.
Suzanne and Brian sharing some story

Horses are hard work and expensive of course. I’m told that each rider needs six ponies each to partake in a polo match. There are six riders a side, well you work it out, some full time staff are needed to keep the show on the road. The sport might be a bit expensive for your average Joe, but there you go, we were made very welcome.

Horses. Feeding, watering, mucking out, grooming, vets bills. Oh yes and then there’s the riding bit.
Beautiful chestnut horses. The pads protect their legs from the polo ball. Apparently they are better at polo strategy than some of the riders, leading to some interesting differences in opinion on where to run to next.

The horses are exercised several at a time. The staff made riding multiple horses simultaneously look easy. In the past I have struggled with just the one. They run around a track made of shredded old carpet which is easier on their feet than sand. I always wondered what to do with all those off-cuts we have from when the bedroom was done. I can now make good use of them, I just need to buy a polo pony. Or six. I’m currently awaiting permission from my dear wife.

Round and round. A good job for any underachieving, but horse-mad, daughters you might have spare. After all they may meet a wealthy Arab and make you proud of them yet.

My Mandela shirt from Cape Town. It follows an African aesthetic unrelated to William Morris and the English Arts and Crafts concept of taste. Perhaps the pattern is a little busy, but what the hell.

I also made a late entry for the ‘gaudiest cyclewear of the year award’. But the competition is fierce with several shirts in the running and Charles’s socks being in a category all of their own.

This was a great morning ride through some of the prettiest villages in England. Special thanks go to Maurice and his generous friends inviting us to the polo club. Deputy Daug for the organising and to those who donated so many nice photos to the photo-share.

A good time to be riding with the club, as our ever increasing membership proves.

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2 September. Record ride? 34 miles.

20 Windmillers cruised into Finchingfield in three separate groups to take over every available seat outside at Winners Tearoom on what could be a record ride for the Windmill Club. And Maurice joined us for lunch which made a total of 21. What an amazing turnout!

Assembling once again at the fabulous Chestnut Tree in West Wratting at 9.00am to have coffee and place lunch orders, the groups setting off included Andrew, Brian, Sandra, Ric, Charles, Ken, Victor, Roger, Rod, Graham, Alan, Jeremy, Howard, Mike, Tom, Lawrence, Jenni, Geoff, Simon and Martin. And to think we could so easily have several others join us, were it not for holidays, this says a lot for the club.

It was great to have Lawrence with us, borrowing one of Maurice’s e-bikes for the day, and at the end there were still five blobs left on the battery indicator, having completed the circuit in eco-mode. Mike joined us too but chose wisely not to accompany Graham to the start from Ickleton which would have meant riding via Finchingfield and having breakfast in Haverhill. Brian, Ric, Victor, Tom, Jeremy and Howard also rode from their homes, clocking up many more miles / km. Well done to everyone.

Here is the route taken, anticlockwise:

Winners coped well with the invasion and dished up excellent coffee and cakes with great efficiency. A feature of the ride were the extraordinary smells that surrounded us, not just of the coffee but those of the harvested countryside – a mixed fragrance of freshly combined and ploughed fields which nasal buds were still able to detect despite frequent lateral flow tests for some.

The first stop for Group B on the return leg had to be Finchingfield’s windmill:

The route then took us up a quiet lane to Helions Bumpstead, passing Jamie Oliver’s new abode on the way:

Jamie Oliver’s country pile with his iconic white Ford Capri in the foreground. No jokes, please, about Essex girls and Ford Capris!

Simon also came across a classic pile of rusty junk somewhere en route which took his fancy:

Parts of an old Ford Capri?

Meanwhile, Andrew made a stop in Castle Camps to admire this RAF war memorial:

Back at The Chestnut Tree, the beer flowed plentifully as thirsty and hungry Windmillers arrived for lunch. And once again we were not disappointed.

Maurice was still feeling a bit bashed and bruised from his accident last week but threatening to be back on his bike very soon. There’s no putting that man down.

Thanks to the team involved in planning the route – Howard in particular – and to Andrew for organising the record turnout. Also many thanks to photographers Charles, Brian, Graham and Simon.

Martin

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26 August. Pat’s pies ride. 31 miles.

Our thoughts today as we gathered for coffee at the Pig and Abbott in Abington Pigotts were with Lawrence and Simon O, both of whom will be having medical time out shortly. We wish them well for a good recovery and look forward to seeing them again as soon as possible. We also heard about a close shave which Maurice had the previous day whilst crossing the A1198 north of Royston on his bike when a passing motorist clipped his front wheel and knocked him off resulting in a few bruises, but it was great that he could join us for lunch relatively unscathed.

So eight Windmillers, Andrew, Ken, Roger, Charles, Alan, Simon, Howard and Martin set off on a pleasant anticlockwise circuit of Hertfordshire and South Cambs lanes before meeting up with Brian and Victor in Haslingfield who rode over from Shelford. Alan had set off from Great Chishill and Howard had ridden all the way from Saffron Walden, clocking up 70 miles in all. Well done to all those long distance types.

This is where we went:

It wasn’t long before Alan hollered that he had a puncture, just before Barrington, but it turned out to be a mini one which was conquered at regular intervals thereafter by means of his trusty pump.

In Haslingfield Brian and Victor were bemoaning the loss of the Moringa Tree café and its sausage rolls but were having a coffee instead at the nearby village shop, also destined for closure apparently. How will cyclists ever survive in this area in future?

On we went, taking a slight Maurice detour in Bourn as we did so, until another detour was made into what we thought was Bourn Golf Club for coffee until a chap with a yellow hat said it was a construction site for the new clubhouse. The old clubhouse was further down the road, where we pulled in for large slices of freshly made strawberry and cream sponge, but not an Americano or Cappucino in sight – just a bag of something that tasted frothy when stirred into hot water. Hopefully the new clubhouse will invest in a coffee machine.

Coffee time at Bourn. Nobody took up Andrew’s offer of a fry up.

The return leg was uneventful, except for the occasional pump up by Alan, and relief was expressed all round that we descended the 10% Croydon hill rather than going up it.

Back at the Pig and Abbott somewhat earlier than expected due to a relatively quick flattish ride, it was good to have Maurice join us to give graphic detail of the idiot driver who nearly mowed him down. The driver stopped and asked if he was ok but then drove off without giving his details so if anyone in the Royston area spots a black Vauxhall being driven at high speed, make a note of the number.

Pat’s pies were as good as ever, according to those that had them, and other menu choices were also excellent, washed down with fine ales. We shall be back on 4 November for Vernon’s memorial ride.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route even though he was unable to take part, Andrew for his organisation and Charles, Simon and Brian for the photographs.

Martin

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Suffolk

Rede

Another fine Thursday morning saw Maurice’s gang – Jeremy, Ken, Rod, Chris, Brian and Charles – setting off from The Plough at Rede, followed some ten minutes later by Andrew’s gang – Alan, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Mike, Roger and Simon.

As ever, Charles was on top form, barking random greetings at startled passers by: “Top of the morning to you”, “Hello dear,” and “Nice dog!”

Maurice had planned our refreshment stop at the Guildhall tearoom in Lavenham, but Andrew’s peloton had other ideas. A chance discovery led them to Cafe Como in Brent Eleigh where they reported on the excellence of both coffee and cake. We must all return there some day soon.

A lovely place to stop off, Cafe Como at Brent Eleigh
Deborah, Andrew, Howard and Mike in the garden at Cafe Como

At 37 miles, this outing was a little longer than usual – and a hilly one too – so it was with relief that we arrived back in Rede, tumbling into The Plough for a very welcome beer and a slap up lunch.

Maurice’s gang at Brent Eleigh
37 miles anticlockwise from Rede taking in Hawkedon, Glemsford, Foxearth, Acton, Brent Eleigh, Preston, Lavenham, Bridge Street, Shimpling and Hartest.

Our thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things – also Graham, Charles, Simon and Brian for the photographs; you can find more here in the club photo album.

Brian

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Suffolk West Wratting

Drizzled on

Thursday morning saw a goodly turnout of sixteen Windmillers set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a 30-odd mile tour of West Suffolk. Deceived by the forecast of a dry day, some were regretting leaving their waterproofs at home as they headed out into the persistent drizzle.

A fine dry day, eh? Then how come we’re all sheltering under a tree?

And it stayed wet almost as far as our mid-way coffee stop at the Fox & Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead; Landlady Kate once again kindly opening up early just for us.

Now dry and all smiles; coffee break at Steeple Bumpstead

Happily, this was an outing where nobody got stung or otherwise discombobulated – and Andrew managed to hang on to his wallet for the duration. It was good to see Mike back in the saddle looking fit as a fiddle. And we were particularly pleased to see Lawrence join us for lunch following his unscheduled sleepover in London.

Good to see Mike back in the peloton

For the record our intrepid sixteen were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon, Tom and Victor

Ric and his natty new shirt

Thanks are due, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for getting us all organised and Charles for the photographs. Rachel and Peter too for taking such good care of us at The Chestnut Tree.

Graham would have joined us – if he hadn’t been all tied up
33 miles clockwise: West Wratting – Withersfield – Great Wratting – Kedington – Boyton End – Stoke by Clare – Ashen – Ridgewell – Birdbrook – Steeple Bumpstead – Helions Bumpstead – Plumstead Green – Bartlow – West Wratting

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5 August. A red herring in West Wratting. 34 miles.

A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion. Wikipedia. It’s also a very good pint of bitter brewed by the award winning Mighty Oak brewery in Maldon, and weren’t we lucky to sample it at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting after this rapid ride around Cambs and Suffolk lanes?

Graham ensuring he has enough calories for the ride ahead.

And a rapid ride it was, having first placed our orders for lunch at The Chestnut Tree and had a cup of coffee. But the coffee stop in Barrow at The Three Horseshoes was not so rapid as the coffee machine packed up after the first few had been dispensed, resulting in a long wait for a cup of instant for those at the back of the queue of 16 Windmillers. Blame the Chinese, said Charles, who spoke ecstacically of Danish machines but eventually, after pressing various buttons the machine starting behaving itself just as we were leaving.

The A team of Maurice, Simon, Jenni, Roger, Chris, Jeremy, Victor and Ric were first in the queue whilst the B team of Martin, Deborah, Charles, Alan, Graham, Hazel, Howard and Brian arrived 10 minutes later having stopped occasionally to admire the lovely freshly combined Suffolk countryside, and got the instant coffee as a result.

Maurice gets in early with his coffee orders…….
………..Hazel is happy to wait for hers

All changed in the team line up after coffee as Deborah was on a very tight schedule in order to get to Chelmsford by 1.30pm to view a wedding venue for her daughter and future son-in-law, who got engaged recently. Congratulations to them! There was much debate about how best to get to Chelmsford and the combined wisdom of Windmillers, which might well have resulted in Deborah getting hopelessly lost, actually enabled her to reach her destination bang on time. Much of this must have been due to Maurice switching to sport mode on his e-bike with his slightly depleted group (Victor and Ric joining team B, which was not considered a very good swap for losing Deborah!) keeping close behind.

Meanwhile, the now 9 members of team B set off also at a fast pace until it came to a sudden halt on hearing the word ‘Ouch’ screamed by Hazel who had been stung in a sensitive part of her nether region by something with a sting long enough to penetrate a layer of lycra. Luckily a gallant Windmiller (Alan?) came forward with some sting relief cream which seemed to ease her discomfort. Well done Hazel for managing this whilst surrounded by earnest and willing would-be helpers!

Back at The Chestnut Tree after a delightful ride through very quiet lanes but with a strong head wind on the last leg, we sat down at reserved tables in the garden to enjoy pints of Red Herring and other beers / drinks whilst eating fabulous sandwiches and other dishes, all delivered in such an efficient manner. The ham can be highly recommended, sourced from a Suffolk farm and cooked at the pub. It was great to be joined by Geoff who had done a ride starting from Balsham.

And this is where we went, anti-clockwise:

Many thanks to Maurice for planning the route, to Andrew who couldn’t make the ride but who organised us and to Graham and Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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2 August. Barking mad tales of lost property. 20 miles.

Andrew regaled us on this ride with his stories of joining the ‘real’ Windmill Club whilst on a night out in London, and losing his wallet en route (not due to improper expenditure it should be stressed).

What happened was that he left his wallet at a BP Station whilst en route to the Silverstone Clasic in his brother-in-law’s Mercedes Benz 560SEC, once owned by Martin. One Windmill wag questioned whether there was anything in the wallet but Andrew claimed it contained £240 and they were not Scottish notes, plus credit cards. Luckily it was handed in at the BP Station who promised to return it, and it eventually arrived with nothing missing.

If that wasn’t enough hassle for one day, after a rollicking good night on the town Lindsey left her handbag in a London cab, a fancy handbag at that, which contained her mobile phone. Andrew eventually traced it to a house in Barking where the hung over SEC was directed to early on the Sunday morning in an attempt to retrieve it. And there on the drive was a Black cab and the phone could be heard ringing inside but despite Andrew barking in true dawggie fashion outside there was no answer. Eventually an upstairs window opened and the sleepy cab driver who hadn’t got home until 4.30am came out in his pyjamas and handed back Lindsey’s handbag. Phew! Relief all round in the Rusack family. Or just Barking mad?

These tales of woe were recounted at various stages of a pleasant 30 mile ride around the lanes which Maurice devised, somewhat cruelly, to take in hill after hill after hill after hill, starting with that nasty little bastardo going eastwards from Chrishall Grange.

Deborah spotted the words ‘mountain bike ride’ on the announcement and so came prepared only to find that this was not the case. Humble apologies were given by Maurice but, given the hills, the mountain bike was in its element.

So stops galore were needed to regain breath and hear the next instalment from Andrew.

At this stop on the road from Littlebury to Littlebury Green, Andrew is in full flow whilst Simon peers at Martin, also in full flow, having done a couple of somersaults after hopping over a gate to have a pee in the adjacent field, and landing in a deep ditch the other side of the gate. Much mirth all round.

Then it was on to Arkesden, Clavering, Langley Upper Green, Duddenhoe End and back to the starting point of The Red Cow for refreshments.

Thanks go as always to Maurice and Andrew for organising our rides, and to Charles for two of the pics – he is not guilty of the Windmill Club pic!

Martin

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Suffolk West Wratting

Cresting the Suffolk hills

Fourteen Windmillers – Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Ken, Maurice, Rod, Simon, Suzanne and Tom – set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a thirty-odd mile tour of west Suffolk.

It all went tickety boo; no punctures, no involuntary dismounts, and nobody choked on their lunch, despite Simon doing a funny dance routine.

Simon, our very own Fred Astaire

Mid-way, Maurice had arranged a coffee stop at The Fox & Hounds, Steeple Bumpstead.

Coffee time at Steeple Bumpstead

Safely back at West Wratting, we enjoyed a super lunch in the garden, courtesy of landlords Rachel and Peter, and we raised a glass to Lawrence wishing him a speedy recovery from his illness.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for planning it all and organising things.

33 miles anti-clockwise from West Wratting

Brian

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Braughing Henham

Idling at Elsenham

Last Train to Clarksville . . . Midnight Train to Georgia . . . Chattanooga Choo-Choo . . . but alas, nobody sings about Elsenham and waiting for the barriers to open, even though there’s time aplenty, 15 minutes in our case, to draft a ditty.

So there we were exchanging banter with the crossing keeper, our party of ten Windmillers having just set out from The Cock at Henham, and barely 2 miles into a 30 mile tour of North Essex / North Herts. We had come close to being just nine Windmillers, Rod having forgotten his helmet and about to head home, when Landlady Mel, bless her, appeared with a spare one she keeps on the premises. Now that’s what we call a cycling friendly pub.

Brief Encounter

Some three trains later, the keeper opened the crossing and we were underway once more, heading for Ugley Green and all points west.

Maurice had promised us a flat ride but, e-bike convert that he is, maybe he no longer notices the hills. We certainly did and, as the morning wore on and the mercury headed upwards of 25C, our once-tight peloton became strung out over a mile or more. While some of us like it hot, others, most notably Simon, aren’t so keen and, by the time we pulled in for refreshment at Braughing, he was looking distinctly pink.

Simon wishing he’d brought his bathing costume

It was in Braughing that Maurice had arranged an out-of-hours visit to The Golden Fleece. Mid-way round and run by our good pals, Pete and Jess, where better to stop off and take on some much needed water, coffee and biscuits.

Cooling down at Braughing

Back on the bikes Maurice took the return leg at quite a lick, having promised Mel he would get us back in good time for lunch, so we were grateful when Henham and the The Cock finally hove into view. Sitting in the garden, we enjoyed a restorative pint while Mel’s team served up an excellent lunch.

Lunch at The Cock

For the record, our peloton comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Simon and Victor.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things, Jess and Peter for opening up The Fleece, and Mel for her hospitality (and helmet) at The Cock.

31 miles anticlockwise: Henham, Elsenham, Ugley Green, Little Hadham, Standon, Puckeridge, Braughing, Furneux Pelham, Stocking Pelham, Rickling, Henham

And finally, we wish our pal Lawrence, currently laid up in St George’s Hospital, a speedy recovery from his illness. We hope to see him back in the saddle soon.

Our very own St Lawrence; get well soon

Brian

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15 July. Ego Borago, Guadia semper ago. 34 miles.

Translated from the Latin, means ‘I, Borage, bring always joys’ and that was certainly the case for 10 happy Windmillers who cruised around the lanes from West Wratting admiring the blue Borage fields and wondering why so many farmers are growing the crop this year. The joy of money perhaps?

Meeting at The Chestnut Tree for coffee before departure were Maurice, nursing a disjointed new knee, Andrew, birthday boy Ric, Simon, Victor, Brian, Howard, Suzanne, Tom and Martin.

Getting ready for the off whilst Maurice collects the dosh in the smart outdoor area of The Chestnut Tree

This is where we went looking for Borage, going clockwise:

The first stop was en route to Dullingham where we gathered under a threatening looking East Anglian sky, which proved to be harmless, and paid homage to Borage (photo above). Simon was joyfully happy to be photographed posing alone………….

………….as was Suzanne:

So Borage clearly has a joyful effect on Windmillers. Not surprising really because this is what Francis Bacon had to say about this ancient herb: ‘It hath an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.’ And John Gerard said in his book Herball: ‘Those of our time do use the flowers in salads to exhilerate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the mind. The leaves and flowers of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadness, dullness and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirm. Syrup made of the flowers of Borage comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the frantic and lunatic person. The leaves eaten raw engender good blood, especially in those that have been lately sick.’ So there you go; pick some and don’t just bung it in your gin and tonic but make a syrup and it will cure all ills whilst also putting a lid on your average lunatic Windmiller.

At the half way stage in Barrow we discovered a new pub The Three Horseshoes who opened up specially for us at 11.00am to serve good coffee, which was enjoyed in the pub garden, but the all important cakes were not on offer unfortuately. Opposite the pub was a fine garage, Kevin Williams, specialising in classic cars and we were somewhat surprised that neither Maurice nor Howard stepped inside to do a deal.

Maurice and Howard missed a great opportunity…………
But who would have wanted this one? Perhaps a member of the National Organisation of Beaters.

The return leg to West Wratting took us through more delightfully quiet Suffolk and Cambs lanes where GPX files came in very useful unless you happened to be on Maurice’s tail, who sped along at high speed even though he was recovering from a fall on his replacement knee – well done Maurice!

Back at The Chestnut Tree, birthday boy Ric very kindly bought the drinks and received a hearty rendering of Happy Birthday in return. Large helpings of food appeared from the kitchen and an excellent lunch was had by all.

Cheers, Ric!

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the route and to Brian and Andrew for some of the photos.

Martin

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12 July. The wettest, muckiest Windmill ride ever. 21 miles.

This says it all. Oh, forgot to mention Jeremy’s puncture.

Martin.

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8 July. Colours to Dye for in Lavenham. 31 miles.

What a colourful ride in Suffolk this was! Colours galore and colourful Windmillers much in evidence, the ride being a repeat of 27 May but going clockwise this time. Some even learnt about the art of dyeing, for which Lavenham is famous.

Starting once again at the popular Plough in Rede, who welcomed us warmly and efficiently with excellent coffee at 9.00am, we pondered the extensive menu before placing our lunch orders and then split into two groups of seven Windmillers before heading east on the first leg towards Lavenham. One wag was heard to comment that the arrival order in the car park set a club record with Deborah being one of the first to arrive and Andrew the last, a reversal of what usually happens.

Preparing for le grand depart, dues having been collected by Maurice

Leading group A was Maurice with Rod, Howard, Brian, Graham, Roger and Lawrence in tow. Following on a few minutes later were the B team of Martin, Andrew, Charles, Geoff, Ken, Simon and Deborah but it wasn’t long before B caught up with A due to the lane being blocked by a large lorry.

Group A take evasive action

Suffolk houses and gardens are a joy to behold, none more so than this cottage and immaculate vegetable garden in the pretty village of Thorpe Morieux:

Andrew, Deborah and Simon admiring a Suffolk cottage garden in Thorpe Morieux
The lane to Thorpe Morieux church – worth a visit next time

Not long afterwards, group B could not resist getting up close to a couple of gigantic John Deere tractors, despite orders barked by Brigadier Charles to ‘get off my tractor’.

….whilst Simon got up closer still. Nothing he likes better than a chunk of agricultural metal.

Soon Lavenham came into view over the fields and it was great to revisit the National Trust Guildhall tearoom, part of the magnificent Guildhall featured above, and to sit in the courtyard garden devouring cakes and coffee.


Once one of the richest towns in England thanks to its leading role in the cloth trade, Lavenham is home to stories of great wealth built on the growth of the cloth industry.
The famous Lavenham blue cloth was an expensive and sought-after material, highly prized and exported to the farthest corners of the world nearly 500 years ago.
This is a woad plant in the garden behind the Guildhall. Woad plants may produce bright yellow flowers, but once the plant leaves have gone through a process to turn them into a dye, the fleece starts to turn a permanent shade of blue.
This is a dyed in the wool Windmiller

The perfect weather continued during the return leg to Rede – not too hot and just a light wind. And the best bit was being able to descend Hartest Hill instead of labouring up it as we did on 27 May.

And of course an obligatory stop had to be made outside the impressive Church of St Mary in Hawkedon:

The Grade 1 listed St. Mary’s Church in Hawkedon is the only church in Suffolk to be positioned on the village green

Group B eventually arrived back at The Plough only a short while after Group A, despite Brian reporting quite a lot of competitive racing between Howard, Graham and Roger, with Howard just having the edge were it not for the occasional call of nature. He also reported no mishaps, no newsworthy thrills or spills, no near misses, punctures or dismounts. Likewise, group B and so the perfect ride ended with a perfect lunch at The Plough.

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organising us, everyone for taking part and to photographers Simon, Charles and Brian.

Martin

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5 July. Familiar lanes. 21 miles.

The Red Cow in Chrishall was once again the meeting place for seven Windmillers to spend a pleasant evening cruising around our quiet local lanes and admiring the countryside in all its splendour. We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep.

Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Suzanne (who rode all the way from Abington and back), Rod, Alan and Martin set off at 4.30pm and had an incident free ride taking in Heydon, Great Chishill, Nuthampsted, Anstey, Furneux Pelham, Brent Pelham, Lower Langley and Builden End before returning to The Red Cow for a drink and chips from the pulled pork van (which also offers excellent Alsace-style coleslaw with chunky bits of fermented white cabbage – go for it!).

Here is the route taken:

Thanks go, as always, to Maurice and Andrew for devising and organising the route.

Martin

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July 1st Henham, Thaxted, Tilty and Finchingfield

This route started from the The Cock at Henham. It was rather a relaxed start with coffee quietly enjoyed, meals chosen and photos taken of members with new and exceedingly bright kit.

Andrew making a relaxed start
Deborah in expansive mood trying to choose lunch.

Charles in a new top. Having moved on from socks he now runs the risk of dazzling motorists. Cycling-wear seems to have it’s own conventions concerning colours, materials and fit. I reserve judgement.

Exactly which route you took depended on the group that you were in it seems. Andrew introduced a change to the route prescribed by Maurice, but each turned out to be around the 30 mile mark.

These are from Andrew’s and Roger’s strava and the eagle eyed will spot the difference. Still there are so many nice lanes out here it made no real difference

Group 1; Simon, Graham, Rod, Geoff, Deborah, Andrew, Charles and later Suzann made their first stop in Thaxted. This is a place famous for the music of Morris Men and the English composer Gustaf Holst (1874-1934) who is renown for The Planets, which he wrote while living in Thaxted. He is also famous for the hymn tune “I Vow to Thee, My Country”. First performed in 1921, it is now associated with Remembrance Day services. It was used at the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965, Diana’s funeral in 1997, Thatcher’s in 2013 and most recently at that of Captain Sir Tom Moore’s in February 2021. Still half the country is uncomfortable with the very existence of nationalism, let alone its musical expression, so we quickly rode on.

The house in Thaxted where Holst wrote The Planets
Group 1 stop hoping to rendezvous with Suzann. It didn’t happen. Later we found her so everything turned out ok.
Traditional windmill picture. You just wait till the Fabulous Four get to Holland. Fortunately for you there weren’t any in Scotland.

Group 2 (Brian, Hazel, Roger, Maurice, Howard, Rick, Ken, Alan) and Group 1 met up at Tilty Abby. Little remains of the Abby, but the parish church erected on its perimeter is still there. Here people might pray without disturbing the monks or indeed without seeing the extent of church property and lands.



The church is in two distinct parts, medieval stone tower (~1200) and Georgian addition (1714-1830) in beautiful pink
To quote the guide book, ‘east window, an example of elaborate curvilinear 14th-century tracery composed of five lancets leading to an elaborate tracery wheel ‘

From bottom to top: the font is Norman, the font cover is 17th-century painted in foliage patterns, the cycle jacket is from this millennium, the club member dates from the last.

The Abby was destroyed in 1539. The ‘Act of Supremacy’ declaring ‘England is an independent country in every respect’ had been passed in 1534, so I guess the writing was on the wall. The final jurisdiction for Law had been in Rome. Church taxes were paid straight there. Any comparisons with the ECJ and EU bodies of today is purely coincidental.

Resentment at the wealth of the Catholic Church and it’s practices (purchase of indulgencies, idolatry, veneration of relics etc) had started on the continent, particularly in northern Germany, then spread to England. The result was an outburst of religious ferocity like that we now associate with the Middle East. It is estimated that 95% of all the art in England was lost during this period, mostly burned. Abby’s were torn apart and their stone reused, the land was seized. The sanitized version, concerning a King and his choice of wives is now taught in school. The reality and politics involved must have been a lot more frightening at the time.

The remaining church is very beautiful with roof timbers from the 1200’s gravestones from the 1300’s, ancient font, brass and woodwork. This is a nice writeup of the details of the church fabric https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/essex/churches/tilty.htm

We thank Deborah for buying the beer on her birthday, Andrew for organizing and leading a group. Also to Maurice for route planning. This was a glorious morning cycle in a period when the weather has been a bit changeable to say the least. A great day out for all the club.

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Cambridgeshire West Wratting

Two take a tumble

At 390 feet above sea level, West Wratting can claim to be the second highest village in Cambridgeshire, beaten to the top spot only by Great Chishill, where Charles, sitting in his garden at a lofty 479 feet, can look down on everyone else in the county.

Gathering at The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting
Morning coffee

West Wratting’s other claim to fame is as the haunt of the mythical Shug Monkey. Cambridgeshire folklore has it that the creature – half dog, half monkey – haunts the road to Balsham. Nobody saw it, not even Hazel who, having enjoyed a pint of strong and possibly hallucinogenic rhubarb cider with her lunch, was the most likely of us to experience a vision.

At Graham’s recommendation, we were lunching at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting, a wonderful village pub, blessed with a particularly fine garden. Our hosts, Peter and Rachel, had welcomed us earlier that morning with coffee and we were now enjoying a fine lunch and some excellent beers.

Good choice of pub, Graham

It had been an eventful outing. Early on, Roger’s and Alan’s bikes somehow got entangled and they took a tumble in the road. Mercifully, they emerged relatively unscathed apart from the odd patch of road rash and bruising. Nothing as bad as the spectacular pile up on the opening day of the Tour de France.

Look carefully and you can just see Alan and Roger ahead, rolling in the road

We’d had a few mechanicals as well; a puncture for Victor and – more significantly – a seized bottom bracket for Howard. Victor effected his puncture repair quickly enough but Howard, unable to turn his pedals for the final mile, had to be pushed back to base by Ric.

Victor’s puncture repair
Ric pushes Howard home

We always make the time to pull over and admire the natural world. This time it was a silk tent in a hedgerow, the work of a small eggar moth caterpillar colony. Following emergence from their eggs, the caterpillars construct a tent consisting of layers of silk fibres.

Small eggar moth caterpillars on their silk tent

We pulled in for coffee at Café 33 near Stradishall. The place doesn’t look much – but the ladies make exceedingly good cakes; well worth stopping for when you next visit your relatives over the road at Highpoint Prison.

Café 33
Suzanne negotiates a roadblock

For the record, our riders were: Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Roger, Suzanne, Tom and Victor.

28 miles clockwise from West Wratting

Thanks, Maurice, for guiding us around another lovely route. Also Graham, Charles, Deborah and Hazel for the photographs. And Peter & Rachel for their hospitality at the Chestnut Tree; we shall return.

Brian