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Biking Brummie Brian’s Bostin’ Birthday Beers

The day after Burns night above Freezing At Last !

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

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

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

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

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

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Eyes Down

19th January 2023. 30 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin enjoys his first lunch with fellow Windmillars.

Thanks to Graham for planning an other excellent ride.

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Three Horseshoes, Stapleford Wimpole

Happy Birthday, Martin

Gathering in the car park on Thursday morning, there was an outbreak of jollity upon hearing that Martin – sadly in absentia – would be buying the beers at lunchtime. Top chap!

So it was that eleven Windmillers, led by Jeremy, set off from The Three Horseshoes in Stapleford heading for Wimpole. Along the way we pulled in at Barrington where we were joined by Alan.

Pausing for a breather in Barrington

The highlight of the ride was the 5 mile off-road trail around the Wimpole estate, taking in fine views of the 17th-century mansion, Gothic folly and Capability Brown landscape. The National Trust café was pretty good too and seemingly full of runners and other cyclists enjoying coffee and cake.

Cresting the hill at Wimpole

Back on the bikes we made short work of the return leg to the Three Horseshoes, where we promptly opened a tab in Martin’s name. Mid way through lunch we were surprised and delighted when the man himself joined us via a video call. There he was lunching with his family and raising a glass to us while we gave him a stirring rendition of Happy Birthday.

For the record, the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Jeremy, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra and Victor – and we clocked up 30 miles.

Happy Birthday, old timer. Looking forward to you joining us again soon
30 miles anticlockwise: Stapleford, Shelford, Newton, Fowlmere, Shepreth, Orwell, Wimpole, Orwell, Barrington, Haslingfield, Harston, Shelford, Stapleford

Brian

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“V” for Victor’s Birthday

This was the first Windmill ride of the year and it was well attended by 14 riders, no doubt encouraged by a forecast for a mainly dry day with double digit temperatures, albeit with a nagging SW breeze to contend with. Andrew had reported difficulties finding suitable lunch venues as pub staff were taking well earned post Christmas breaks. Luckily the Pheasant came to our rescue – now firmly back on the Windmillers’ local pub list.

First group non r-bikers about to give chase.

Being Great Chishill and the highest point in Cambridgeshire at a lofty 146m ASL, it was inevitably going to be a down hill start. Having duly digested the recent club missive on e bike etiquette, all of today’s e-bikers whizzed off ahead in the first of two groups on the road, with 4 non e-bikes in tow. The remaining 6 non e-bikes took up the pursuit 5 minutes later .

The roads were a bit wet and muddy from rain earlier in the week, but in truth conditions were very good for us as we headed out past Reed and on towards Buntingford where the groups met up for coffee, cakes and a chin wag. The weather was mild enough for people to take advantage of outside seating – 14 cyclists do a good job of filling a cafe !

Luckily warm enough to sit outside the cafe.

An uneventful and mainly downwind ride took us back via Hare Street, Meesden, Duddenhoe End and Chrishall.

I think I must have been unlucky in recent weeks to have missed out on birthday beers. This week, however, I was in luck as Victor owned up to a Birthday last week and kindly (and dutifully) bought a large round of beers – for which he received the traditional off key rendering of “happy birthday to you” from those present. Many happy returns and many thanks.

Enjoying birthday beers

For the record, the register was: Andrew, Deborah, Sandra, Jeremy, Graham,Ric,Alan,Victor, Tom, Nigel, Maurice, Charles, Iain, Rod with Brian joining for free beer, sorry lunch.

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December Contrasts

What a difference a week makes ! Last week the country was in the grip of freezing temperatures with snow and ice lying, unrideable, across untreated roads. As a consequence, the scheduled ride on the 15th December, from the Hare and Hounds in Harlton, was first shortened and then cancelled altogether. Much kudos to Jeremy who still rode across to Harlton and completed the treated sections of the shortened route. Graham and Brian joined him at the pub for lunch.

This week, all traces of snow and ice had disappeared thanks to some persistent drizzle and double digit temperatures. On the strength of this, and a pan flat course, nine riders were tempted by Jeremy’s route starting from Stapleford.

Our outbound route mainly followed an excellent network of cycle paths through the city and out along the river to Waterbeach and Landbeach. Last time we rode these paths, we were following the “Our Place in Space” sculpture trail – this time round, all the planets had been removed.

By the time we reached the edge of Milton Country Park, the drizzle was starting to take its toll and we were ready for a warming drink.

We hadn’t reckoned on the friendly house owner with his collection of burst football plant pots and other pieces of garden art which he insisted on showing us at length.

Man with football plant pots an Barbie-Q

Finally on our way through the park, we arrived for warming drinks at the Country Park cafe. Black Forest Hot Chocolate highly recommended !

Black Forest Gateau Hot Chocolate – yummy !

Back on the tracks and trails through the city, Granchester and Trumpington passing, en route, the famous Kings College Chapel founded by Henry VI in 1441 (scaffolding and BBC sound recording lorry in situ). The only slight “drama” on the return leg was provided by Deborah and Graham, who managed to take a wrong turn and temporarily lost the group.

Excellent food and beer at the Three Horseshoes, where Maurice met up with the riders.

For the record, the riders were Deborah, Jeremy, Iain, Roger, Rod, Tom, Andrew, Geoff and Graham

Merry at Maurice’s

Thursday’s glorious blue skies were deceptive. With temperatures hovering around zero, we abandoned plans for a 30 miler, opting instead to meet up at Maurice’s mid-morning for a shorter ride of just 19 miles.

Feeling the cold – but ready for the off at Maurice’s

So it was that Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Jeremy, Ken, Rod, Roger, Sandra and Victor set out from Heath Farm, heading uphill to Barley and on to the Langleys.

Cresting the hill at Little Chishill

Around the half way mark we pulled in at Poppy’s Barn and met up with Hazel, Graham and Ken for coffee and mince pies all round, except for Jeremy who had to feed his porridge addiction.

Charles’ cup runneth over
Pre-Christmas treats at Poppy’s
Charles’ pics may be wonky, but they capture the moment

Back on the bikes, we rode the return leg via Meesden and Nuthampstead, returning to Maurice’s for mulled wine and yet more mince pies. And it was good to catch up with Geoff and Martin there too.

19 miles clockwise from Maurice’s

Thanks to Maurice and Lyn for their very generous hospitality; after such a cold ride, the mulled wine and mince pies went down a treat.

Thanks also to Andrew, Charles and Graham for the many photographs.

Brian

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Henham

Henham

There’s really not much to report. 13 Windmillers cycled 31 miles – though Graham, as ever, did a lot more. Nobody fell off – and it wasn’t anybody’s birthday so, sadly, we all had to buy our own beer.

Gathering at The Cock Inn, Henham
Coffee at Finchingfield

The only drama, albeit a mild one, was Roger’s puncture – but even that coincided with pulling in for a coffee break at Finchingfield, so no time was lost.

Hurry up, Roger, our coffee’s going cold

For the record, the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Iain, Ken, Rach, Roger, Sandra, Simon.

Thanks go to Andrew for getting everyone organised, and to Charles for the many photographs; there’s lots more here in the club album.

31 miles, keeping right

Brian

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Newmarket Pig & Abbot The Chestnut Tree West Wratting West Wratting

At last! A dry Thursday

Graham’s plan to meet everyone over coffee in The Chestnut Tree took a knock when he sustained a puncture just outside West Wratting. So instead of warming himself with a hot drink in the pub, he was seen wrestling with tyre levers out in the garden.

How many Windmillers does it take to mend a puncture?

Pesky puncture repaired, we set off towards Dullingham and Newmarket, thirteen Windmillers looking forward to Graham’s new route and enjoying our first dry ride in a month.

Victor, feeling particularly welcome in Newmarket

It was in Newmarket that Graham introduced us to a new (to us) café in the town centre, albeit one hidden away up a side street, called Victor Victoria. The coffee, cake and, according to Jeremy, the porridge too, were all top notch. We must make a return visit soon.

Newmarket, by Bill Tutte’s memorial

Before resuming our ride, we paused to look at the Memorial to Bill Tutte, 1917 – 2002. A Newmarket man, Tutte is commemorated for cracking the code used to communicate with the German navy during WW2.

Back on the bikes, we headed for Moulton and thence Cheveley, Saxon Street and Kirtling – where we encountered the surprise of the day, a pair of emus peering at us through a wire fence.

Suffolk is full of surprises; a pair of emus photographed near Kirtling

Returning to the The Chestnut Tree having clocked up 32 miles and looking forward to a well deserved beer, we were warmly received by Landlords Peter and Rachel – and delighted to be joined by Maurice, Martin and Ken for lunch.

Victor leading the way, snapped by Charles

For the record our peloton comprised: Alan, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Jeremy, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Victor

Thanks go to Graham for organising things, devising an excellent route and finding a really good venue for future coffee stops.

32 miles clockwise from West Wratting

Earlier in the week we were saddened to hear of the sudden death of Mick Thompson who, alongside his wife Pat, ran the Pig & Abbot, one of our favourite lunch spots. Our thoughts are with Pat at this difficult time.

On behalf of the Windmillers, Maurice will be making a donation to Cancer Research UK, Pat’s chosen charity.

Brian

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Cambridgeshire

Wet at Wimpole

Into each life some rain must fall, so goes the song. But we’ve had more than our fair share of the stuff this past month and it’s becoming difficult to write a blog without tedious repetition of ‘stair rods’, ‘cats & dogs’, ‘drowned rats’, etc.

El Cafecito, Fowlmere

Yet here we were again; another wet Thursday and a tricky go / no go decision for Simon, this week’s ride leader. On the one hand he wanted to avoid getting everyone soaked and – it goes without saying – to keep us all safe. On the other hand he’d booked 18 people in for lunch at The Chequers. It was quite a dilemma.

Being a ballsy sort of guy, Simon confirmed he would be waiting patiently at the start – where he was delighted to be joined by a foolhardy foursome, namely Sandra, Graham, Jeremy and Brian.

Wet at Wimpole

Rather than meet in a rain-lashed pub car park, we got together a little further down the road at the excellent El Cafecito – where Graham was already enjoying a hearty breakfast – before steeling ourselves for the ride.

Of course, once we got going there developed a sort of all-in-this together camaderie – resilience in adversity and all that – and before we knew it, sixteen miles had gone and we were pulling in at National Trust Wimpole for coffee.

Refreshed (and quietly leaving behind us five sodden NT chairs), we took to the bikes once more for the return leg. It was only 11 miles but the rain was heavier and the puddles bigger. Indeed, Jeremy endured a complete soaking when a passing truck sent a tidal wave of water his way.

So it was with much relief that we tumbled back into the warm embrace of The Chequers where we were greeted with a cheer by our drier, more sensible friends. Sitting down with Andrew, Chris, Howard, Maurice, Rod and Roger, we enjoyed a well deserved lunch.

Lunch at The Chequers, Fowlmere

Our thanks go to Simon for instilling in us his gung-ho spirit of adventure.

27 miles clockwise from Fowlmere

The very next day, many of us were back at The Chequers raising a glass to our dear friend, Lawrence, having earlier attended his funeral at St Mary Magdelene’s Church, Ickleton. The service was memorable both for Windmiller Ken Worthing’s excellent eulogy and for the wonderful voices of the Cambridge University Musical Society Choir.

Very fittingly Maurice donated £1000 of our charity collection to the Arthur Rank Hospice where Lawrence spent his final weeks.

There’s a very good account of Lawrence’s life here in the Cambridge Independent.

Lawrence Wragg, 26th November 1943 – 29th October 2022

Brian

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Clocks

As we cycle about our local area we quite often stop to admire lovely churches, and occasionally take a look inside, but how often do we take notice of their clocks? Well, a recent notification to The Ickleton Society from The Hundred Parishes Society, which covers much the same area that we cycle around of North West Essex, North East Hertfordshire and South Cambridgeshire, sheds an interesting light on the church clocks that we pass by so frequently.

This is what they have to say:

‘Within each of our hundred or so administrative parishes, the parish church is nearly always the most significant heritage feature. The majority of our Grade I-listed buildings are churches and each of them has fascinating architecture, memorials and memories. Today, I would like to focus on one particular aspect, the church clock.

Before the middle of the twentieth century most people did not have watches; they relied on public clocks which could be seen at railway stations, post offices and other public buildings – and on church towers. This reminds me of the lines written in 1912 by the homesick poet, Rupert Brooke:

“Stands the church clock at ten to three

And is there honey still for tea?”

I have to report that only half of the parish churches in The Hundred Parishes have a clock. All listed buildings have a formal description, but the details for a listed church rarely mention the clock, albeit that it is often a distinctive element of the church’s appearance.

Most clocks are mounted on the church tower. Many churches have just one clock, some two or three. I have found only three churches with four clocks, one on each side of the tower: Newport, Radwinter and Steeple Bumpstead.

The majority of clocks are round, but a few are lozenge or rhombus shaped, like Felsted and Great Waltham. Most clocks have a solid face although a few, like those at Steeple Bumpstead, consist of metal framework and numerals through which the brick or flint wall can be seen.

Solid faces are usually either blue or black. Numerals and the hour and minute hands are almost always golden. The hands generally point to Roman numerals: I, II, III, IV, etc – although a good number have IIII instead of the usual IV. Widford breaks the mould with Arabic numerals: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Great Canfield has just a single hand, pointing to the hour.

Some clocks are inscribed with a date and occasionally a royal cipher, for example Great Waltham celebrates Queen Victoria.

Hatfield Broad Oak appears to display the oldest date locally, 1797, although the clock looks in pristine condition following recent conservation. Hinxton possibly has our oldest clock, believed to date from 1700 AD, albeit extensively renovated in 1809 when a new face was fitted.

In Furneux Pelham, St Mary’s clock is topped by Old Father Time and the words “Time Flies, Mind Your Business”. One wonders what prompted those words to be included.

The bell tower at Sheering has two clock faces which were installed in the 1940s to remember those who served in the War. The north-facing one tells us to “Work and Pray” whilst the west-facing proclaims “Today Is Yours”.

The church at High Wych was built in 1861 to the design of local architect George Edward Pritchett. Its clock is almost as wide as the thin flintstone tower on which it is mounted.

Artist Eric Ravilious lived in Great Bardfield and his wood engraving of the church of St Mary the Virgin clearly shows the enormous clock that was added to commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1912. One assumes the residents of Great Bardfield are never late for work or church. The engraving has been adopted as the logo of The Hundred Parishes.

I hope this brief insight will encourage you to take more notice of our humble church clocks. As with all things in the Hundred Parishes, we can rejoice in the variety. I attach a page of images of the clocks mentioned above. You may see some reproduced in your parish magazine over the next two month or two.’

We are probably most familiar with the clock on St. Mary’s Church in Furneux Pelham with its inscription of ‘Time Flies: Mind Your Business’ but have we ever noticed Old Father Time above it? And next time we’re passing through Steeple Bumpstead why don’t we stop to take a look at all four clocks on the church tower, or the single hand on the clock of the church in Great Canfield? It’s good to learn also that the clock on Hinxton church is getting on for 325 years old.

The Hundred Parishes Society has a lot of additional interesting information about our lovely local area here: http://www.hundredparishes.org.uk/introduction

Tick tock!

Martin

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Pig & Abbot

Another wet one

It was more of a steady drizzle than the stair rods of a couple of weeks ago, though the result was much the same; eleven soggy Windmillers drying out over a pint.

Ken had planned a 30-mile outing but, given the forecast, very wisely decided to put the start back an hour, knock ten miles off the thirty and, much to Deborah’s chagrin, ditch the coffee stop too.

So it was that an all-weather team comprising Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Ken, Rod, Roger, SimonT and Tom, having fuelled up on Landlady Pat’s coffee and biscuits, set off from the Pig & Abbot for a soggy Thursday outing.

It was one of those we’ve started so we’re jolly well going to finish it sort of rides, heads down into the rain, only interrupted by Brian sustaining an early puncture. But that was soon fixed and we were underway once more, completing the course at quite a lick.

Back at the pub we were delighted to be joined by Andrew, SimonO and Maurice who, two weeks on from his knee op, was looking very chipper, hobbling around with the help of a stick.

Just before sitting down to lunch we received news that Martin would be going into Addenbrookes for major surgery the very next day. Good Lord, Martin! We duly raised a glass and wished him well.

As ever, Pat served up her splendid pies in all their many varieties (steak & kidney being my personal favourite, Ed) and we looked on aghast as our legendary trencherman Charles went the whole hog, following up his pie with sticky toffee pudding and custard. He is such a skinny whippet, where does he put it all?

Thanks go to Ken for organising everything and for his doggedness in getting us all to turn out in such character building weather.

Brian

PS: We are glad to hear that Martin’s op went well and we look forward to seeing him back in the peloton soon. As Rod quipped, he is now a semi-colon publisher.

21 miles clockwise from Abington Pigotts
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31 October. Halloween and the last of the summer rides. 20 miles.

Alan was called all sorts of names for having planned this Halloween ride but not taken part on account of having a cold. But there was no pity for him as seven spooky Windmillers tackled the Bastardos he made us climb, cursing and swearing like evil monsters as we rode along.

Starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall at 2.30pm, Rod set off like a rocket, Maurice-style, followed at a distance by Simon, Sandra, Iain, Andrew, Nick and Martin. But we soon ground to a halt, not once, not twice but three times before exiting Chrishall in the direction of Chrishall Grange, to sort out Simon’s scraping rear mudguard and Rod’s computer (at least, that’s what it might have been). This is Alan’s route:

Eventually we got it together and whizzed downhill towards Chrishall Grange before turning right and heading towards the first Bastardo – the nasty, bumpy, steep hill from Ickleton Old Grange up to the better financed Essex border where the smooth tarmac starts. On the way there were cars and vans trying to overtake us and others waiting patiently at the top of the hill for the puffers amongst us to reach the summit. What was going on with the A505 we wondered?

Thereafter, another stop was made to adjust Simon’s scraping mudguard; this time Andrew’s brute force and ignorance seemed to do the trick and it was all peace and quiet from then on. Well done, Dawg!

Stopping for tea and crumpets at Simon’s house was hinted at as we passed through Littlebury Green but none were available and, anyway, the light was already fading. So it was down the long hill, reaching over 30mph, and then up the second Bastardo of the ride towards Duddenhoe End.

In Arkesden a stop was made to admire the Halloween decorated house (shown above) opposite The Axe and Compasses, where rebuilding work is making progress. The owner showed us his evil talking spider and then rushed back to his house on seeing Rod coming towards him with a menacing look on his face.

It was quite a relief to turn right in Clavering and sail back with the wind behind, Nick peeling off back to Meesden at one stage. Then Andrew peeled off in Langley Upper Green to talk to his garage man, leaving Rod, Sandra, Iain and Martin to have a chat around the table in The Red Cow and to toast absent friends, this being the first ride since we had learnt of the passing of our great friend Lawrence Wragg. RIP Lawrence; we’ll miss you,

The last time we saw Lawrence on his bike – a short ride alongside a French canal on Monday 27 June 2022. Thereafter he became known as Goldilocks for sleeping in a bed in the wrong B&B, without checking in or checking out.

And on that sad note, this draws to an end a summer of wonderful hot Monday rides. But the good news is that future rides will start at the earlier time of 11.00am and, who knows, could involve a light lunch somewhere each week. More anon from our Monday organiser, Alan, who we should thank for organising this ride. It wasn’t that bad, really!

Martin

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27 October. A ride of contrasts. 32 miles.

Red sky in the morning? Shepherd’s warning! This is how the saying goes and how right it turned out to be on this mild autumnal but mixed weather day. Graham had set out early from Ickleton, as usual, to cycle to the start of this ride in Brick End near Stansted Airport which he had very kindly organised, capturing the magnificent red sky en route.

The Prince of Wales was to be our base for the day and what a fine pub it turned out to be – a huge car park and the prospect of some fine beer and grub at lunchtime, pre-tested by Graham he assured us. But having placed our lunch orders, the red sky delivered its warning and it was soon pelting it down with rain. Undeterred, some donned wet weather gear and some decided to take a shower whilst Ken, who arrived later than most, decided sensibly to sit in the comfort of his car and catch us up at coffee time. Contrast no.1.

GPX files are created by many apps these days and, in theory, should work anywhere. The file for this route, however, in contrast to most files loaded on to the Windmill WhatsApp group, refused to behave itself and seemed to defeat even the most IT-literate Windmillers. However, eventually after much experimentation and tweaking a sufficient number made it on to the devices of our 3 leaders for the day, Graham, Brian and Tom. Contrast no. 2.

So this was the devious route Graham had planned for us. Was it the figure of 8 and the mix of clockwise and anti-clockwise circuits that confused the GPX gremlins? Perhaps we’ll never know. ‘You can’t beat paper’, Maurice would say, and he might have a point.

Graham led the way in the rain accompanied in Group A by Rod, Jenni, Sandra, Deborah and Roger. They were soon overtaken by Group B, due to a minor technical issue of some sort, comprising Tom, Charles, Iain, Andrew, Keith and Martin who were in turn overtaken by both Group A and Group C’s trio of Brian, Simon and Victor, partly because Group B took a wrong turning (blame the rain and screens being difficult to see) and partly because poor Charles got a puncture in his front tyre – the first he has had for ages, possibly ever?

Having a puncture in a narrow muddy lane whilst it’s raining with lots of cars squeezing past is not exactly fun but the source of the puncture was soon discovered – a whopping great thorn, so easily picked up from the hedge cuttings currently in our lanes. Everything went well with the installation of a new tube until it failed to inflate, so it was back to square one. A dodgy valve it seemed was the cause. Finally, after much squirting of ice cold gas into a second tube, Group 2 set off again in pursuit of the others.

After a succession of tiny lanes we then found ourselves cruising through Great Dunmow from North – South before crossing the A120 and once again taking to quiet lanes.

Group B take a breather as the weather improves, near Buttocks End (Puttocks End!! Ed.)
Just wondering if Charles is planning one of these in his garden at Chrishall?

By the time Group B entered glorious Hatfield Forest, the sun was out big time but Group A had already left. Cycling through this National Trust property was a dream, with a café positioned perfectly in the middle by a large lake, which served excellent coffee and a good choice of cakes. Ken arrived at this point and tagged along with Group B.

Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve is the best surviving example in Britain of an almost complete Royal Hunting Forest. It has seen many owners, from Kings to commoners. No other Forest on earth evokes the atmosphere of a medieval hunting Forest so completely.
Hatfield Forest is a managed landscape, which has been created by centuries of human intervention. The traditional woodland management techniques of coppicing, pollarding and grazing are continued today.  It is home to over 3,500 species of wildlife, some of which are rare and threatened. The ancient trees, some over 1000 years old, provide the perfect habitat for some of the Forest’s rarest insects, lichens and fungi. It’s the perfect place to cycle off road on its many trails.

Having gone clockwise so far most of the time it was now an anti-clockwise circuit, exiting Hatfield Forest after a long grassy trail, a bit soggy and uphill in places which was easy for those with e-bikes but quite tough going for those without. The scenery was fabulous.

Simon stops for a natter with some Red Poll heifers.

The route back once we hit the road again was a mix of quiet lanes and quite busy stretches as we crossed the M11 a couple of times. This led to Group B experiencing some significant road rage, mainly from angry lady drivers, three of whom hurled abuse at us whilst cycling in single file on wide roads. Perhaps they thought it was just a bit of fun on their part. In contrast, there were no other reports of such rage from either Group A or C. Contrast no. 4.

And the mix of quiet lanes, forest trails and some busy stretches? That makes Contrast no. 5.

Despite Group B’s late arrival back at The Prince of Wales, the timing was perfect as lunch had been ordered for 1.15pm and it was soon on the table, washed down with a nice pint of Ridley’s and other ales.

Many thanks to Graham for inventing and organising a terrific ride and for giving us such an interesting day of contrasts. And thanks also to Graham, Charles and Brian for some of the photos.

Martin

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The E-Bike Trio

An earlier start for our Monday ride from The Bull at Lower Langley and only 3 e-bikers present on a sunny autumn afternoon. Iain with his mighty German steed, the Range-Rover of e-bikes, with it’s multiple suspension systems, massive battery and an electrically operated Rohloff hub gear with belt drive, Nick with his carbon Specialized more suited to a race track than our bumpy lanes and myself on the sturdy Haibike. Departing in the direction of Little Chishill the first disruption was when the top of my water bottle flew off, very odd but I blame the bumpy road, retrieving it the chain then jammed in the chain guard, soon freed but investigation required especially as it happened again later in the ride. The only common event was a very rough and bouncy road.

The route took us through Green End and Mill End and as we passed John Bagrie’s abode we spotted him seemingly checking the fallen leaves, so we stopped for a chat. John was concerned about Maurice and Lawrence’s health and I was able to update. I saw Maurice on Friday and he was making good progress and walking with a crutch. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to provide such good news on Lawrence, with whom John had been hoping to take a ski trip early next year. It also turned out that Nick and John had been near neighbours in Meesden so Iain and I left them reminiscing, Nick did join us again, eventually. Having dropped Nick at his home in Meesden, all these stops made us late back to the pub, where Iain kindly bought the beer.

Apparently the speed I set was a little faster than either Iain or Nick was comfortable with, they need a BadAss on their bikes, not something anatomical but the name of the dongle which can speed up an e-bike.

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Henham

Wet, wet, wet

The weather forecast was a tad deceptive. Occasional showers? Humph, it was raining stair rods! Having waited in vain for a “Let’s call the whole thing off,” message from Andrew, ten Windmillers arrived in Henham hoping for a lull in the downpour.

Andrew had, quite understandably, been loath to cancel yet another outing from The Cock Inn, having already cancelled three in the past due to bad weather.

It’s warm, it’s dry, let’s stay here

So there we were at 9.30, sipping coffee in the pub while the rain hammered down outside. Graham, having arrived on two wheels, was looking like a drowned rat and leaving puddles wherever he stood, while our remarkably understanding landlady trailed around after him with a mop.

Alan does his bit mopping up Graham’s puddles

Mulling over our options – it was still tipping it down outside – opinion was divided. The wimps – Andrew, Brian, Jeremy, Rod, Roger and Victor – formed a majority and just wanted to go home. But there was a gung-ho gang – Alan, Deborah, Graham and Sandra – gagging for a ride come hell or high water.

Sandra laughing off the rain

So it was that the wimps headed home while the gang of four stalwart, nay foolhardy, Windmillers headed out. And by all accounts they had a jolly time. The rain did eventually stop and they clocked up a respectable 19 miles on some very flooded roads.

The all-weather gung-ho gang drying out in the Chameleon Café, Great Dunmow. Well done Deborah, Sandra, Alan and – behind the camera – Graham.
19 miles

Well done you guys. Respect!

Brian

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13 October. Victorious West Wratting circuit via HM Highpoint Prison. 31 miles.

Victor conjured up an ingenious ride from The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting which took in some lovely new lanes around Suffolk to Highpoint Prison near Stradishall where our closest contact with the inmates was having a coffee in Café 33 outside the high security fencing.

A good turnout of 15 Windmillers meant that three groups set off after first enjoying a fine cup of coffee and having placed their lunch time orders for food and drinks.

Victor led the way with his Goup A comprising Sandra, Alan, Charles, Jeremy and Deborah, followed a few minutes later by Andrew, Brian, Howard, Rod and Ric in Group B. Bringing up the rear in Group C were Geoff, Graham, Simon and Martin.

Although a bit chilly to start with, those without shorts soon regretted not wearing them as the temperature warmed up, so much so that most were sweating by the time they got back. It’s just that time of year but what a splendid autumnal day it turned out to be.

Not long after starting Group C came across Group B mending a puncture in Brian’s front wheel, expressed their sympathies and then swiftly moved on as everthing seemed to be under control. Brian must surely be in the running for the 2022 puncture prize? Has he converted to Schwalbe Marathons yet we wondered?

Brian in cheerful mood whilst others watch Howard doing all the work. Meanwhile, Simon seems to be inspecting the hedgerow……….

HM Highpoint Prison, the former home of Lester Piggott for a while then came into view, surrounded by very high fencing as you might expect. Just before reaching it we did wonder if the mad driver of a powerful old V8 Jag might be breaking out, or helping others to do so.

The main entrance to Highpoint Prison, a Category 3 prison these days, meaning it’s mainly for murderers and lifers. The site of the prison opened in 1938 as an RAF base. (My father was based there during the war. Ed.) On its closure in 1970, the RAF base was briefly converted into a transit camp for Ugandan refugees. In 1977, Highpoint Prison was opened, initially providing cells for male prisoners only, having been built by the prisoners themselves. Using prison labour instead of outside contractors saved £2 million on the overall cost of construction. That would be a good way of using today’s prisoners, surely? In February 2003 it emerged that two women drug therapy workers were ordered out of the prison after they were confronted with allegations that they had had inappropriate relationships with two male prisoners. The workers employer, Addaction (ho ho), subsequently lost its contract for therapy at the prison. Surprise surprise.

Padlocking our bikes securely outside Café 33, just in case, we all sat down outside to admire the view. Unless breakfast or a hearty meal was required it was best to stick to coffee as the selection of cakes was not quite up to the usual standard, but friendly and quick service all the same.

The return leg produced a fine splash of Suffolk colour which will probably only improve further in the weeks to come:

Then it was time for Simon’s chain to misbehave again, having been on its best behaviour so far on the ride:

Simon’s backside is becoming a familiar sight on recent rides as he once again puts his chain back on. Geoff provides protection.

The lanes became more familiar as we passed through Hundon, Great Wratting and Withersfield, eventually arriving back at The Chestnut Tree for yet another excellent lunch and fine ales.

Thanks go to Victor for organising a wonderful ride, and to Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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3 October. Welcome to Iain and his pet monster. 22 miles.

We gave a warm welcome to new member Iain Taylor on his first ride with the Windmill Club, astride the largest e-bike we have ever set eyes upon. Weighing in at 26kg and brimming with gadgets and carriers for serious camping expeditions in Scotland and elsewhere, this was a bike which would make mincemeat of our local lanes.

Welcoming him at The Red Cow was Maurice, organiser Alan, Rod, Simon, Nick, Charles and Martin. Possibly for the first time in Windmill Club history e-bikes out-numbered normal bikes. No doubt we’ll soon see Maurice back on his e-bike once his hip operation is over, although he talks of a new knee too………. What a brilliant invention the e-bike is, facilitating the continued enjoyment of our lovely countryside and the company of good friends.

This is where we went, anticlockwise:

The first test for Iain’s bike was the gravel byway between Building End and Langley Lower Green but he stormed up that, passing the Thames / Wash water course junction on the way, except there was no water to be seen. Roll on some more wet weather, but not on Mondays or Thursday please God. (He normally obliges unless members have been sinning.)

In Clavering we stopped briefly to allow Simon to put his chain back on again – a frequent occurence it seems since his prang at Cardington which probably distorted his gear mechanism, but he’s getting this down to a fine art with a little bit of help from his friends……..

Many hands make light work of putting a chain back on
Simon gives Charles’s rear camera the five fingers

Soon we were on our way again, this time direct to Manuden which made a change and luckily without too much traffic. Then it was back via Rickling Green, Arkesden and Duddenhoe End to complete a very enjoyable evening ride, with Nick peeling off in Rickling to cycle back home to Meesden.

Stopping for a breather between Manuden and Rickling Green

Back at The Red Cow, a warm welcome was received and some fine ale sampled before going our separate ways. Just as Alan had advised, the sun would be setting earlier and so this would be the last time for a while that we would be starting at 4.30 on a Monday. There was talk of bringing forward into November the popular pre-Christmas lunch time rides followed by a light lunch at a suitable hostelry.

Sunset over Chrishall
Thanks go to Alan for organising a great ride and also to Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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Roads we owe to the Romans

A rather late Blog of our 10 October ride, but better late than never. 5 Windmillers, Victor, Simon, Nick, Alan and myself, left the Red Cow on a sunny but breezy autumnal afternoon at the earlier hour of 15:30. It was a good ride with no delays and after the drought through the summer, recent rain has saved next years harvest with many fields showing good growth of new shoots. It always amazes me to see the neat lines of shoots with almost no gaps, although I’m informed that an 80 to 85% germination is usually expected. If only my seed sewing was as successful.

Taking advantage of the Roman’s gift of road building we skirted the Langleys to follow the Roman road from Butts Green past Cooper’s End onto the road to Duddenhoe End. We owe many of our local roads and settlements to the Romans and we should be grateful. Although at times I think many of our local roads last saw a new surface when the Romans were here.

Nick soon peeled off to return to Meesden and Alan for Great Chishill, leaving just Simon, Victor and myself to enjoy a pint, chat and some bar refreshments back at the Rec Cow. All in all a nice day. 20 miles.

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Who ya gonna call?

Ghostbusters? No.

Sandra? You betcha! With her capacious van, the Windmillers equivalent of Thunderbird 2, she can pick up and transport pretty much anything, anywhere. No job is too big – and we hear an HGV is available for exceptional loads.

This time it was Iain and his monster of an e-bike requiring salvage. It was only a puncture but, for want of a big spanner, we were unable to remove the rear wheel and effect a repair. More to the point, it was nearly pub-time and we were late for lunch!

So there was Sandra, already at the pub and enjoying some well earned refreshment, when she took the distress call from Brian, “Sorry, but please could you rescue Iain?”

“OK but where are you?” was her very reasonable response.

“Er, dunno. Suffolk somewhere.”

This was the first time we had cause to use what3words in anger – and it worked a treat – referencing our location (to the very square meter!) as prep.somewhere.extend and texting that to Sandra, lo and behold, some 20 minutes later there she was, scooping up Iain and his machine for safe delivery to the pub.

Ken, Iain, Deborah and Geoff enjoying the Suffolk sunshine
Coffee and cake at Platform One, Clare

That aside, it was a very successful and enjoyable outing: Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Howard, Iain, Ken, Roger and Sandra completing a 28 mile circuit, the highlight of which was a meander through the gardens of Clare Priory before stopping for coffee and cake at the nearby Platform One café.

Clare Priory

Another good find was The Bell Inn at Castle Hedingham, a lovely old coaching inn full of wonky, period fittings and a perfect lunch venue for wonky, period Windmillers.

Thanks go to Maurice for researching a delightful route, Howard and Brian for leading the two groups, and Charles, Sandra and Alan for the photographs.

The Bell Inn – it’s a proper pub

Spare a thought for Maurice next Thursday as he will be in hospital having some worn out parts replaced; our thoughts will be with him.

Finally, Windmillers, we recommend you install what3words on your phone – and maybe put Sandra on speed dial.

28 miles clockwise from Castle Hedingham

Brian

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29 September. Crash landing at Cardington. 30 miles.

It’s been nearly five years since the last crash landing at Cardington airfield near Bedford, but Simon achieved another whilst taking a good look at the huge hangars as we cycled past and veering into the grass verge at the same time, dismounting in style but, thankfully, none the worse for wear other than his chain coming off. To be fair it was all the fault of Martin and Brian who were ahead and who slowed down to also admire the view, and one wheel just happened to clip another……….

The previous crash was far more serious. After earlier failures and a crash landing in August 2016, Airlander 10, an airship as long as a football pitch, got loose on its moorings in November 2017 and deflated spectacularly. Sadly, that was the the end of the £100m project.

This was the only ‘event’ on an otherwise fabulous ride organised by Brian, a 30 mile circuit of Bedfordshire from The Cock in Broom, just off the A1 near Biggleswade. It was good to be back there knowing that there were some good beers to sample at lunchtime.

With 13 participants in all, Brian led the way with Rod, Howard, Charles, Simon and Martin in Group 1 followed a few minutes later by Jeremy, Keith, Ken, Chris, Alan, Roger and Deborah in Group 2. After four miles the plan was to cycle through Old Warden Aerodrome, home of the Shuttleworth Collection, but it seems an air show was planned over the weekend and we were not allowed through unless we paid £15 each. So a U-turn was necessary, back through the delightful grounds of Shuttleworth Estate which enabled both groups to meet up for a photo in front of Shuttleworth House.

Shuttleworth House, a fine Victorian house with its magnificent tower and clock overlooking the extensive parkland, and equally magnificent Windmillers in front.
Photographer Martin having a quick kip
Wake up, Martin!

So now we were off in earnest to explore Bedfordshire’s varied mix of pretty villages, not-so pretty villages, fine architecture and churches, disused railway lines and gravel pits, quiet bike paths alongside the Great Ouse, large fields of potatoes and even a hill up to a greensand ridge. This is where we went, anticlockwise from Broom:

The paths around the Great Ouse were well surfaced, nicely laid out and popular with walkers as well as cyclists, ending up in the pretty village of Willington with its National Trust Dovecote and splendid church of St Lawrence.

The Dovecote in Willington, with Simon doing some exploring
Group 1 selfie
St. Lawrence, Willington, where we thought of our friend Lawrence.
Charles doing the Catwalk, clearly keen to win the sartorial prize again at the Christmas lunch

It was soon time for coffee at The Barn in Cardington, a good find which served excellent coffee and cakes.

It was soon after leaving The Barn that Simon had his prang but he was soon back in action again once his chain was back on and no blood could be seen:

Howard and Rod assist Simon whilst Martin and Brian, the culprits, look on shamefacedly. Sorry, Simon – we could do with brake lights.

Then we saw a side of Bedfordshire, or any county for that matter, which was simply shocking – a huge pile of refrigerators and freezers just dumped on the side of the road complete with rotting bags of food. What a contrast with other countries such as France when after a huge mountain bike event recently not a single piece of litter could be seen. We need a Government that can tackle this issue (and others of course) urgently.

A sad sight, but so common these days.

Brian, being Irish, threatened to take us to Ireland once again on this ride and indeed he did but only to a tiny Bedfordshire village which bears its name, without a Blarney Stone or Shamrock in sight yet alone any Guiness on offer. They really should cash in on this opportunity for those whose satnavs take them there by mistake:

Back at The Cock we received a warm welcome and were seated in our own room which hadn’t changed for centuries by the look of it. The excellent beer was kept at cellar temperature down some steps and the food was good too. What more could Windmillers wish for?

Thanks to Brian for organising the ride and to the many photographs provided by him, Simon, Charles and Deborah. Our thoughts are also with Maurice as he prepares for another hip operation.

Martin