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.
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.
Another Thursday – and the Windmillers had many reasons to be cheerful. Not only was it Ken’s birthday and he’d be buying us all coffee and cake, but it was also Graham’s birthday and he’d be buying the beers.
News had clearly got around as Keith chose this very day to return from a long medically enforced absence. And to cap it all, today was the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holiday, so the roads were likely to be quiet. We were counting our blessings!
So there was a general feeling of bonhomie in the air as twelve Windmillers set off from the Fleece. We should have been fourteen but Hazel and Graham had messaged to say they were still breakfasting in Puckeridge and would catch us up. Thursday outings are all about food.
This is fast becoming one of our favourite refreshment stops; not only for good coffee and fabulous cake – but also for frocks! Yes, indeed. Rach came away carrying a rather tastefully wrapped package which Maurice, ever the gent, offered to transport back to Braughing in his bike bag.
Rach subsequently sent us some pics of her purchase.
So, hitherto known for our appreciation of local eateries and alehouses, Windmill Club outings now also provide shopping opportunities. Maybe next week we’ll call in at Bluewater and, who knows, if Maurice gets a cargo bike1 we’ll do Ikea.
Oh, and we did a bit of cycling too, clocking up some 30 miles and with the peloton comprising: Alan, Ann, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Jeremy, Keith, Ken, Maurice, Rach, Roger, Sandra and Tom.
Our thanks go to Maurice, for yet another wonderful outing, and to Ken and Graham for the birthday treats; many happy returns both.
With Maurice sunning himself on a yacht in Majorca and Andrew still suffering from his recent fall, this left Jenni, Rod, Alan, Simon and Martin to kick off the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee week of celebrations. And where better to start than outside Charles’s house in Chrishall, whose display of bunting set the standard for all around – no larger Union Jack was seen during the 18 miles of this ride. Well done Charles, but sorry you were unable to join us.
Starting for a change from the Ickleton Lion, this is where we went:
The familiar byway from Builden End towards Langley Lower Green always seems to result in a discussion about the watershed at the top of the hill, which was news to Jenni. All very theoretical, however, on this warm dry day as there was no sign of any water in the ditch trying to decide whether to head for the Thames or the Wash. Let’s hope that one day the water will return.
In Langley Upper Green the group paused to take a look at the village church, St. John the Evangelist, which is easy to miss as it is up a no through road, The Causeway, just before the village green.
Cycling on, it wasn’t long before we reached Strethall where Alan peeled off to head for home. Jenni was also running a bit late and so she headed off on returning to Ickleton which left Simon, Rod and Martin to sample some excellent ale in the Lion.
As the starting time for Monday’s ride approached it was clear that this would be a day when many Windmillers had found better things to do and as 4pm arrived only Nick and Rod with their e-bikes were at The Tally-Ho at Barkway for the mass start. Leaving on time we made rapid progress to the only forced stop of the day. Having travelled no more than 5 yards we were confronted by a Red light, the junction of Nuthampstead Road was under repair, a quick visual assessment and with no traffic or workmen in site we quickly side-stepped the red light and continued the ride.
The planned route was through Anstey, Brent Pelham, Deer’s Green, skirting Clavering and on to Upper Langley, Dudenhoe End, Chrishall and back to Barkway. However, with only Nick and Rod who had both pedalled to the start, the route was cut short and re-routed from Upper Langley.
We came that way
Nick had the “good fortune” or so some say, of receiving a deposit from an over flying pigeon just before we reached Upper Langley which was the highlight of the ride. Presumably one he’d upset by chasing it away from his garden.
The weather was dry although cool for May, the countryside looked lovely with the crops growing well, let’s hope there is a good harvest this year. We split at Lower Langley, with Nick making his way back to Meesden while I made my way home to Royston.
Let’s hope we can attract more riders for future Monday rides as this may be the smallest Windmill rode ever blogged..
Victor, Sandra, Roger, Alan, Ric, Rod, Geoff, Brian, Nigel, Martin, Rach, Hazel, Charles and Cheryl, all featured above, plus Jeremy who took the photo, set off in two groups from The Three Horseshoes in Stapleford on a ride organised by Brian in the absence of both Maurice (yachting around the Med) and Andrew (still recovering from his recent fall from a ladder). Deborah was hoping to take part but sadly had a family bereavement to deal with. It was great to welcome Rach as a new member and we hope that Hazel and Rach’s friend Cheryl will join us again on future rides.
Jeremy led the first group on this cultural outing but, mysteriously, Brian’s second group overtook the first group somewhere between Grantchester and Cambridge. But all was well as both groups met up at a key point on the route overlooking Kings College Chapel.
A famous scholar at Kings College was the economist John Maynard Keynes whose room was in Webb’s Court, close to the building to the right of the Chapel in the above photo. Keynes’s most famous work was The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money which created ‘Keynesian Economics’ and still widely taught today. But it was the American economist Milton Friedman who attacked the central Keynesian idea that consumption is the key to economic recovery as trying to “spend your way out of a recession.” Unlike Keynes, Friedman believed that government spending and racking up debt eventually leads to inflation—a rise in prices that lessens the value of money and wages—which can be disastrous unless accompanied by underlying economic growth. The stagflation of the 1970s was a case in point: it was paradoxically a period with high unemployment and low production, but also high inflation and high-interest rates. Are we heading in the same direction now? Perhaps this just proves that Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator and explorer, was also an economist because he set off not knowing where he was going and when he arrived he didn’t know where he was.
Enough of all this academic claptrap I hear you say and get on with the ride!
So, having traversed Trumpington Meadows and the bike path from Grantchester, the said Windmillers then wiggled their way out of town through tiny lanes that only Brian and Jeremy know about. Hands up those who could repeat the route without looking at a map!
Heading north-west and despite a stiff breeze it wasn’t long before we reached the new development of Northstowe, passing through Girton, Oakington and Longstanton on the way and submitting our backsides to some bumpy bike paths at times. But the smell of good coffee was in the air as we pulled into the Willingham Auction Rooms site where we were served briskly and efficiently by the staff.
The return leg was more or less dead straight once we hit the busway towards Cambridge but the stiff South Westerly breeze and the exposed Fenland landscape made it tough going at times. Taking the new Chisholm Trail back into the centre of town was once again a pleasure – a delightful traffic free route for pedestrians and cyclists – after which we picked up the southern busway to Addenbrookes Hospital and the DNA path back to The Three Horseshoes.
Group B somehow managed to get to the bar first for much needed refreshment and to order their lunch and there was quite a wait before Group A arrived, when a minor prang between Rach and Charles took place at the entrance to the car park but no damage was done. The food was wonderful and all present thanked Brian for organising another of his delightful Cambridge outings.
This is where we went:
Thanks also to photographers Hazel, Charles, Jeremy and Brian.
“Can you sleep in it?” enquired Deborah pointing to Sandra’s big shiny van, “and what’s in there anyway?” Whereupon Sandra, sliding back the door, pulled out an alpaca, albeit a large cuddly one. Talk about Aladdin’s cave.
Then there’s Ann and Martin who, for reasons best known to themselves, gave an impromptu rendition of “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do” during lunch. They only knew the chorus so we have helpfully included the complete lyrics below in the hope that they will give us the full version soon. The Windmillers are indeed an eccentric, some would say slightly mad, bunch.
So it was that thirteen Windmillers gathered at the Golden Fleece for a 30 mile jaunt around the lanes of East Herts; Ann, Brian, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Martin, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Victor raring to go on a figure of eight route devised by Maurice. And what a route it was, affording magnificent views across the Hertfordshire countryside, the roadsides abounding in May blossom. Views naturally only come with hill climbs, of which there were a fair few, so it was with some relief that we pulled up for a breather and some refreshment at the Brewery Tea Rooms in Walkern.
Set in a beautiful house, a former brewery to be precise, it serves excellent coffee and fabulous cakes, and we were very warmly received by the ladies who run the place. Why have we never been here before? We must return in the near future.
Back on the bikes we puffed our way around the remaining 18 miles, pausing occasionally for the pedallers to catch up with the electrically assisted. Cresting the final hill between Puckeridge and Braughing, we returned to the Golden Fleece looking forward to a beer.
Maurice, Ken and Andrew were there to greet us and, as ever, our hosts Pete and Jess served up an excellent lunch.
Thanks go to Maurice for devising yet another superb route, also Graham, Martin and Simon for the many photographs which are all available in the club photo album.
“Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” is a popular song written in 1892 by British songwriter Harry Dacre. It is said to have been inspired by Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, one of the many mistresses of King Edward VII.
There is a flower within my heart, Daisy, Daisy! Planted one day by a glancing dart, Planted by Daisy Bell! Whether she loves me or loves me not, Sometimes it’s hard to tell; Yet I am longing to share the lot Of beautiful Daisy Bell!
Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer, do! I’m half crazy, All for the love of you! It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage, But you’ll look sweet on the seat Of a bicycle built for two!
We will go “tandem” as man and wife, Daisy, Daisy! “Ped’ling” away down the road of life, I and my Daisy Bell! When the road’s dark we can both despise P’liceman and “lamps” as well; There are “bright lights” in the dazzling eyes Of beautiful Daisy Bell! (Chorus)
I will stand by you in “wheel” or woe, Daisy, Daisy! You’ll be the bell(e) which I’ll ring you know! Sweet little Daisy Bell! You’ll take the “lead” in each “trip” we take, Then if I don’t do well; I will permit you to use the brake, My beautiful Daisy Bell! (Chorus)
Not a lot has been recorded of a horrific fall encountered by Simon when he hit the opposite of a pothole, namely the mini-volcano above, on an otherwise smooth cycle path whilst returning recently from Reach Fair. He flew into the air, just like a plane on the nearby runway of Cambridge airport, but crash landed with a crunch on his collar bone and elbow, both of which have troubled him since. The collar bone may well have cracked, according to the pain reports provided by Simon, and this is what the elbow looked like:
It beggars belief how Cambridge Council can allow such a dangerous obstacle to remain on a cycle path and we hope it is repaired before further injuries are sustained by cyclists. In the meantime there are rumours that Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Run may well be acting on behalf of Simon for damage to vital parts of his body, and his phone which was wrecked.
The good news is that Simon didn’t stop cycling, despite the discomfort, and this ride seemed to indicate that a full recovery had been made through having a celebratory swing from the lychgate of All Saints Church in Sandon:
The moral of this tale? Watch out there’s a pothole / mini-volcano about (everywhere).
Besides Simon, setting off earlier from The Tally Ho! in Barkway were Maurice, Nick, Rod, Alan, Victor, Martin and a surprise visitor Tim Goode who rode with us a couple of times a few years ago. Tim happened to be passing The Tally Ho! on a flashy new e-bike whilst the Windmillers were sheltering from a short shower of rain, paid his fiver and joined in.
Perfect weather soon unfolded once the shower had passed and so the 8 set off in one group – 4 e-bikers and 4 pedal pushers. This is where we went:
Whizzing past John and Lyn Bagrie’s house, with a cheery shout of hello, it wasn’t long before we descended to Buntingford and then up to Wyddial, passing by Visions of Loveliness Lane (ask Andrew for the details). Nick peeled off back to Meesden and the remaining group headed back to The Tally Ho! via Nuthampsted to enjoy some much needed refreshment. And who should join us but John Bagrie who ticked us off for not stopping for a drink as we passed his house. Next time, John! Thanks for the offer.
Alan was celebrating his birthday but had to shoot off to an early dinner engagement but no doubt he’ll receive a reminder the next time we see him!
Thanks once again to Maurice for planning and organising the ride.
Cycling in Suffolk is always a treat – quiet lanes, beautiful countryside and pretty houses and cottages painted in hues of red, pink and white. But look closer and there’s a colour that seems to be all the rage at the moment – yellow ochre.
Setting off from The Plough at Rede after having ordered lunch over a cup of coffee, nine windmillers comprising Maurice, Howard, Roger, Simon, Graham, Alan, Rod, Nigel and Martin decided to cycle in one group to start with, but that only lasted until Foxearth when bits started falling off Martin’s bike.
There’s so much to see in Suffolk that it’s difficult to keep one’s eye on the road, which is a bit dodgy these days as roads everywhere have more potholes than ever before and the Chancellor has nothing left in his kitty with which to mend them, partly due to the naughty MP for Newmarket spending millions on unused face masks and protective clothing supplied by his mates and which is now past its use-by date. (How can a face mask be past its use-by date? Ed.)
Maurice spotted a couple of hares having a bout of fisticuffs on the roof of a thatched cottage which prompted Graham and Roger to have a go at each other too, but in a more friendly fashion:
Foxearth came into view just as Martin thumped into a large unseen pothole which ejected his heavy water bottle out of its holder and onto the road where it was recovered by sweeper-up Alan and replaced with no damage done to bike or rider. Not long afterwards a smaller pothole then ejected Martin’s trusty old Garmin eTrex 30 which had given sterling service over the past 10 years but which ended up being tragically killed by two cars, both of whom ran over it. Once again, Alan came to the rescue but, sadly, the look on its face said it all:
The coffee stop was once again at Café Como in Brent Eleigh, south of Lavenham, where it was pleasant to sit outside in their nice garden and soak up the sun.
Avoiding the main road into Lavenham which from previous experience we decided was too busy and dangerous, Maurice took us on an Easterly loop around and back into Lavenham via Preston which was pleasantly quiet. In Brent Eleigh, another yellow ochre building was spotted, this time a very run down 15th / 16th property which had seen better days and in need of more than a slight touch of tlc.
Lavenham is a difficult place to ride through without stopping and so Martin and Alan eased up and sauntered gently down the High Street.
Suffolk is famed for the colour of its houses and cottages but, in fact, this is a fairly recent phenomenon. Plain lime wash was the usual colour but there are reports of red ochre being used on barns in the 17th century, purportedly made with blood or with sloes. So yellow ochre turns out not to be particularly traditional but perhaps just faddish today.
Cycling out of Lavenham past the impressive church is always a sight to behold, this time flying the Ukrainian flag on the top of its tower:
It was at this point that the third item fell off Martin’s bike, this time a pedal toe clip but Alan was not around to pick it up as hunger had got the better of him. It was not a problem to re-fix it temporarily with a spare bolt and he was soon on his way again, as a very distant tail ender.
Hartest hill was descended for a change and what should be seen at the bottom but another yellow ochre cottage, plus the house in the featured photo above overlooking Hartest village green.
A headwind made progress slow towards Hawkedon where it proved impossible to not stop and take a pic of another magnificent church, St Mary, sitting in a field of buttercups – the only church in Suffolk to be surrounded by green on all four sides.
Lunch was in full swing back at The Plough by the time your correspondent arrived, happy at having sauntered through the lanes.
Thanks to Maurice for planning and organising the route and to Graham for some of the photos. Graham not only rode to Rede (that’s a mouthful), leaving at 6.30am but declined a lift back from Martin, clocking up an impressive 100 miles for the day. Well done, Graham. This is where we went: