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16th June. Brightlingsea and Windmills in the sea. All very exciting.

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.

Our route. We went clockwise.

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.

Great Bently green. What a whopper.
Trip members. Except Brian of course who is lying on the floor photo’ing.

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.

Nice pier, very tasteful. Quite posh town.
Aren’t they beautiful. And useful in saving the world, keeping bills down and keeping foreign tyrants at arms length.
Looks like all sand banks and turbines to me. Those captains do know about steering ships don’t they?
This is nerdy but important. Please pay attention at the back of the class.

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.

Solidly built they take some knocking down (but they have given these guys a pick-axe each).
17 remain on the East Coast. Napoleon never got shell them but we think they would have worked.

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 tide comes in rapidly for the second group
A short tip by boat back to the start (and pub)
Mucking about on boats always makes people smile.

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.

Safely ashore, after as much sea-faring as is enjoyable
Nice pub. Oysters excellent.

The pub had excellent food and a great view. This was a brilliant day out and thanks to Maurice and Martin for their organisation

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13 June. Testing, testing, testing… 21 miles.

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.

Alan shows off his touring bike for use in France. Look at the size of that cassette! And there’s a small third ring on the front too.

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.

Rod making a fast get away from robbing a bank? No, just an anti-fly swallowing device.

And then there was Simon, testing out a smart looking shirt and clearly determined to take on the French at their own game:

Simon modelling his smart outfit, ready to show the French that British cycling fashion is ahead of the 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:

Up down, up down, up down, up down, up down, up down for 21 miles – good practice for France

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.

Grandpa Martin

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cable car London

Riding to London

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.

Deborah just loves horses

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.

A grand view of the O2 and the City
Rod gets high
Simon gets sucked into a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 at the Emirates Aviation Experience, now sadly closed

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.

Charles at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Landlubbers at 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.

Along the Thames at Wapping

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.

Limehouse Basin

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.

Waltham Abbey to Tower Bridge and back: 44 miles in all

What a fantastic day! A huge thanks to Maurice for planning everything and leading the way.

And check out our last London ride in April 2019 and the one before that in April 2018.

Brian

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Braughing

Jubilee shopping trip

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!

Keith! Welcome back

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.

The ride was a reprise of the one we did a fortnight ago, only t’other way round, and featuring a repeat visit to the Brewery Tea Rooms in Walkern.

Scrumptious meringue at The Old Brewery Tea Rooms

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.

A 30 mile figure of eight: Braughing – Puckeridge – St Edmund’s College – Nasty – Great Munden – Haultwick – Whempstead – Benington – Walkern – Ardeley – Wood End – Great Munden – Nasty – Braughing

Brian

PS . . .

. . . a cargo bike would be a useful addition to our club vehicle fleet.

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30 May. Jubilee ride. 18 miles.

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.

Langley Upper Green’s 12th century, Grade 2 listed parish church, “St John the Evangelist” is located at The Causeway, Langley Upper Green. Its western tower was added in the 14th century and chancel in the 16th century. It stands at around 450 feet above sea level. It was re-opened in 1885 after thorough restorations, which give the impression of more recent construction. There is a Commonwealth War Grave in the graveyard dedicated to a local Private who died in WW1.

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.

Martin

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The Electric Duo

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.

It was only a wee pigeon!

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..

Rod

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26 May. Keynesian Cambridge ride. 35 miles.

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.

C’mon chaps, this way. Or is this a sign from Jeremy that Group A has got lost?

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.

A painting of Keynes and his wife in 1935, but……………
…….. in 1909 Maynard Keynes took up his Fellowship at King’s College, moving into P4, a room in Webb’s Court. Duncan Grant, then his lover, decorated the room’s wooden panels with an exuberant painted scene, depicting dancers and Mediterranean grape-pickers.

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!

Hazel, Rach and Cheryl (on Lammas Land, Cambridge?)

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.

Coffee at Willingham
Rod making sure a guided bus is not about to run him down
Jeremy’s group by the Cam on the return leg, with a few interested spectators behind

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.

Martin

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Braughing

Laughing in Braughing

“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.

Sandra, “Any more questions about the contents of my van?

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.

Not as worrying as it looks; just Graham helping Deborah adjust her saddle height

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.

The Brewery Tea Rooms

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.

Topping up our caffeine and glucose levels

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.

Cheers!
A 30 mile figure of eight: Braughing – Nasty – Great Munden – Wood End – Ardeley – Walkern – Benington – Whempstead – Haultwick – Nasty – St Edmund’s College – Puckeridge – Braughing

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.

Brian


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)

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16 May. A tale of an involuntary dismount. 20 miles.

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:

This is what happens when crash landing on a bike near Cambridge airport

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:

Simon’s method of checking if his collar bone has mended or not. A dangerous place to experiment given that coffins normally rest here during the initial part of a burial service.
Others wait patiently as Simon sets off to go swinging, at the early hour of ten to five

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.

A shower of Windmillers?

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:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/6ec3d5a75f0b279b3f02bb17aaa4072f

Stopping for a breather between Therfield and Sandon

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.

Martin

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12 May. Yellow ochre in Suffolk. 36 miles.

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.

Le grand depart from The Plough at Rede, on a fine Suffolk spring day

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:

A substantial well proportioned property, probably once the property of a rich wool merchant

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:

Goodbye, Garmin. It’s been good knowing you.

Martin and sweeper-up Alan waiting to pick up the next bit to fall off Martin’s bike

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.

Anyone fancy a bit of DIY?

Lavenham is a difficult place to ride through without stopping and so Martin and Alan eased up and sauntered gently down the High Street.

Spirit levels clearly hadn’t been invented when these houses were built

Looking up Lavenham’s High Street, with more yellow ochre on the left

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.

A full coverage of the history of Suffolk decoration can be found here: https://www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/planning/Conservation/upload/ConservaionLeafletPainting.pdf

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:

The magnificent church of St Peter and St Paul’s in Lavenham, flying the Ukrainian flag

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.

Looking up Hartest hill, with more evidence of yellow ochre on the right

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.

St Mary’s Church in Hawkeden surrounded by buttercups

Lunch was in full swing back at The Plough by the time your correspondent arrived, happy at having sauntered through the lanes.

Lunch in full swing at The Plough

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:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/4c58fc2c3d9051714176784f37ab1ef2

Martin

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9 May. Highways and byways. 16 miles.

Maurice incorporated almost every local byway into this ride but whilst getting some gravel and pothole practice in before leaving the car park of The Red Cow he fell off his bike in a rather classy slow motion sort of way, gaining a few scratches in the process. Windmillers soon came to the rescue and hauled him and his bike up (getting out from underneath a heavy e-bike is no mean feat), and no other damage was done other than to his ego. All agreed that pushing bikes across loose gravel was probably the best bet.

Accompanied by Nick, Simon, Graham, Rod (just back from Oz), Alan and Martin, Maurice then led us on a tour of local highways and byways. This is where we went:

Byway no. 1 soon came into view – the lovely climb from Builden End over to Langley Lower Green, passing a Wash / Thames watershed ditch on the way. Not too bumpy either thanks to Essex CC’s upgrading of byways in recent years. Heading towards Brent Pelham before turning left to Roast Green and up past Poppy’s Barn brought us to Byway no. 2, a former Roman Road which joined Braughing with Great Chesterford. This is the only part which remains that can be walked / cycled, and in the tramlines of Roman wagons and chariots too. What heritage we have on our doorstep!

The featured photo above of modern-day Roman soldiers, a.k.a Windmillers, was taken at the exit of the byway near Cooper’s End.

Cycling through Duddenhoe End and up to Littlebury Green, where Simon is busy restoring a former quarry into a nature reserve with the help of other volunteers, we whizzed past his house and on towards Byway no. 3 – the pleasant route alongside the woods between Catmere End and Elmdon, pausing to admire the Jersey cattle at Freewood Farm.

Maurice and Simon receiving admiring looks from a Jersy heifer

‘Hey, you, get off my bike!’

Cycling past Simon O’s house in Elmdon, which seemed all locked up, made us think of what he has been going through recently and to hope he is doing ok. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we enjoyed a beer on a summer’s evening in his and Ollie’s back garden, where Simon proudly showed us his very own outdoor bar. I want one! I want it now!

Finally, Byway no. 4 was meant to take us directly from Elmdon to Chrishall, which it did for Rod who was out front with hearing aids turned off / not working, but the remaining group decided to take Graham’s detour to the north end of Chrishall through the infamous ‘big dipper’ and soft gravel – all because Martin reported a tree down on the intended route which Charles had promised to chain-saw away before heading off on his sailing trip. But he hadn’t – the tree was still there but Rod managed to get his e-bike around it somehow and got back to The Red Cow long before the others.

And so ended a very pleasant tour of local highways and byways, except perhaps for Nick who said he still suffers from a bashed up knee from many years ago and so prefers the highways to the byways.

It was great to have Rod back with us again after his long stay in Australia, where both he and his wife had Covid at one stage and had to lock themselves away. He seemed relieved to be back in a country with Covid on the wane, no floods, no nasty spiders and no crocodiles, and celebrated by buying a round of drinks. Cheers Rod!

But it was sad not to have Andrew with us and we hope he makes a steady recovery from his recent ladder accident.

Thanks, Maurice, for organising a great ride.

Martin

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5 May. Snakes and ladders before the ride. 31 miles.

At 00.39 on 5 May we received the sad news from Andrew that he was in A&E following a nasty fall from a ladder. Not only was he on the longest ladder, squares 28 – 84 on the above board, whilst attempting to mend his conservatory with a mastic gun, but he landed on the longest snake which took him quickly down from square 87 to 24, via a concrete post on the way. Ouch! That resulted in two fractured ribs, a damaged back and a month’s supply of codeine phosphate.

But, Andrew being Andrew, he was out of hospital after 24 hours having got to know almost everyone in A&E in the meantime and was lunching with Simon, Lawrence and Martin at The Red Cow on the 6th, albeit considerably the worse for wear, and by the 8th he was marshaling a sprint event at Debden with Howard and Martin with the assistance of his new friend, codeine phosphate. He was very lucky not to have been injured more seriously and we wish him well for a speedy recovery, not least because he has a 300 mile ride coming up in France in mid-June.

Andrew knocking back the codeine phosphate at Debden accompanied by red flag man Howard and bookkeeper Martin.

So this news created a sombre start to a ride from The Chestnut Tree at West Wratting, with much talk and personal experiences of falling off ladders and how to prevent such disasters. Ladder stays top and bottom and / or a ladder assistant seem to be the main recommendations, and wearing a cycle helmet might also help.

News of Andrew’s fall produced many more expressions of ‘Be careful’ than usual from concerned spouses which seemed a bit strange given that we weren’t going to be climbing ladders all day but just cruising around our quiet lanes on a perfect Spring day. And that’s just what happened as 13 Windmillers set off after having had coffee and placing their lunch orders, led by Maurice and followed in two groups by Geoff, Alan, Victor, Brian, Jeremy, Deborah, Graham, Simon, Roger, Ken, Howard and Martin.

A baker’s dozen of Windmillers getting ready for the off on a fine May day

The route was a familiar one – the reverse of one done recently in storm force winds, taking us this time anticlockwise via Horseheath, Castle Camps, Baythorne End, Kedington and Withersfield. The conditions were blissful – what a contrast with a few weeks ago. Here is the route:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/9b19113b27071c5c1a6896d860ab0c35

Coffee at Tarka’s Café in Baythorne End was as good and efficient as usual, but this time sitting outside in the sunshine whilst hearing an update from Andrew in A&E about his scary and painful experience – a blow by blow account indeed.

Brian and Graham give Michelle a cuddle at Tarka’s Café

Jeremy, Geoff, Roger and Ken replenished and raring to set off on the return leg

Back at The Chestnut Tree after an uneventful ride – just as well because Andrew’s event was enough for one day – we enjoyed the usual excellent fare washed down with fine ales and soft drinks.

Thanks to Maurice and absent Andrew for organising the ride and we look forward to the Deputy Dawg joining us again once he is fully recovered.

Martin

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Ely The fens

Goosed in Ely

Fenland can be a disorienting place – with its 360° horizon, black earth, wide waterways and immense skies – but the National Cycle Network’s Route 11 is there to guide you from Cambridge to Ely on traffic free lanes and byways. So it was that eleven hardy Windmillers set off for Ely, a return trip of 40 miles or so, on a cold Thursday in April.

Cambridge Park & Ride: ready for the off

There was plenty to see along the way. Not only do the fens contain around half the grade 1 agricultural land in England but they are also home to herds of deer and rare breeds of cattle and ponies, while the numerous locks, sluices, pumps and dykes keep the waters of the Great Ouse and the North Sea at bay.

Along the way we pulled in for refreshment at Wicken Fen, the National Trust reserve where herds of free roaming konik ponies and highland cattle help create new habitats for wildlife. Their grazing keeps the landscape open and encourages the growth of wetland and grassland plants.

Windmillers stress testing a fenland bridge

It was here that Charles, Chris, Geoff and Ken peeled off and headed for home, leaving Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Howard, Martin, Sandra and Simon to continue on towards Ely.

We enjoyed a splendid lunch at Peacocks Tearoom and Howard, this week’s birthday boy, bought the drinks.

Sandra cringes while Simon struggles with tearoom etiquette . . .

It was as we were putting our helmets on for the return trip that Deborah got goosed – quite literally – by a goose that crept up from behind and pecked her on the bum, to much hilarity all round.

Never turn your back on a goose, Deborah
All set for the homeward leg

The return leg was thankfully somewhat warmer and Martin, Sandra, Brian and Howard pulled up for yet more refreshment at Anglesey Abbey, while Andrew, Deborah and Simon headed on back to Cambridge.

Martin ahead of Simon, with Ely Cathedral in the background

Thanks are due to Andrew for planning the outing and Howard, top chap, for buying the drinks.

Best wishes also to Simon as he is taking his Spanish GCSE exam later this week; good luck!

Simon, distracted as he mutters Spanish irregular verbs

There’s lots more photos here in the club album and, if you’re into horses, there’s further information here about the konik ponies.

Konik ponies as photographed by Deborah

And finally, if you want to read about our last visit to Ely, some three years ago, see here.

Brian

40 miles to Ely and back
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Four cyclist and a Walker

24th April 2022 20 miles

The four cyclist Alan, Andrew, Charles and Nick departed from the Red Cow at the appointed hour. The actual number who were going to ride had fluctuated through out the day. We had thought about calling off the ride but as it was a nice day and it was the first ride after the clubs 11th birthday ride we decided to go ahead.

With Maurice being away the ride was led by Andrew.

The ride took us down and through Duxford, Hinxton, Ickleton, Littlebury Green, Elmdon and back up to the Red Cow at Chrishall.


The four riders

The ride passed without incident or really of anything of note until we were passing the meadow between Hinxton and Ickleton, then one of the cyclists spotted a familiar looking walker. Yes, it was Martin who, only a few hours before hand had dropped out of the ride, claiming he had a zoom meeting to attend.

Martin the walker, looking sheepish.

The cyclists greeted Martin with calls that he should be on his bike. Martin smiled back sheepishly, like a young lad having been caught doing something.

Friendly banter was exchanged with Martin over the river. After a few minutes (much to Martin’s relief) the cyclists headed off.

The ride passed without any further thing of note.

Thanks to Andrew for planning and leading the ride.

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21 April. 11th Birthday ride. 31 miles.

It is 11 years since The Windmill Club was established and we still have the dedicated support of founder Maurice, seen zooming onwards at a rate of knots in the photo above on this Birthday ride, and deputy-Dawg Andrew, who decided a rest was needed to smell the bluebells in woods near Nuthampstead. We are indeed very fortunate to have all the hard work taken away from us in terms of ride planning and organisation by those two stalwarts. Helmets off to both of them.

We were fortunate too in having perfect weather for this 11th Birthday ride. Seventeen Windmillers signed up for an outing around local lanes, ten starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall, where Andrew had done a special deal with Toby the landlord for lunch, and six from Ickleton which proved convenient for the gang from Shelford, Stapleford and Ickleton, generally known as the Ickleton mob. And the seventeenth, Deborah, joined for a late breakfast at Poppy’s Barn where we all stopped for coffee, at various times. More anon.

Those starting at The Red Cow were Maurice, Andrew, Geoff, Charles, Simon, Graham, Ric, Roger, Alan and Chris whilst those starting in Ickleton – Ken, Brian, Howard, Tom, Jeremy and Martin were put to work before setting off attempting to heave out the rest of Martin’s stubborn walnut tree stump, but to no avail despite Howard’s idea that a bit of leverage might help.

Howard, Tom, Martin, Ken and Jeremy couldn’t shift the tree stump despite a loud rendering of ‘Hooh! Aah! Hooh! Aah! That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9Ylio8H-VU (for those who want to sing along).

Having given up on the tree stump the Ickleton mob set off a bit earlier than expected and cruised up Coploe Hill with the wind behind to meet up with Ken who had made an earlier start. This meant that we were ahead of Maurice’s group and Andrew’s group and would be first in line for the coffee at Poppy’s Barn. Yippee! Little did we know what was going on behind us……… but Alan has very kindly supplied the details:

Group A or was it group B regrouped at the junction of Bastardo and the B1039. Just as we set off Maurice announced that he thought he had a puncture. How could this be the rest of the group were all thinking after all his bike was equipped with Schwalbe Marathon tyres which are claimed to be the most puncture resistant tyres on the market. 

Sure enough the front tyre was flat.

Never mind with Alan, Geoff, Maurice, Rod and Roger with our many years of experience we would soon have this sorted at a sprint.

Wheel removal

With the wheel and tube removed the next job was to get a new tube. Once the tyre had been checked for sharps, none were found but a cut was.  Maurice rummaged around in his saddle back (which we all know is a bit like Hermione’s bag in the Harry Potter film it contains everything you need, including a shot of port & brandy for medicinal purposes) and produced a tube of the correct size but also fitted with a Schrader valve. Unfortunately the hole in the wheel was for a Presto valve. No matter how hard we tried it was not going to fit. By this time group B or was it C arrived.

More experience arrives

More tubes where offered but they were either too big or too small.

Roger came to the rescue with some super patches. As it appeared all was under control some of the group resumed the ride leaving a few behind to carry on the repair.

The hole was soon identified, patched tyre and wheel fitted on we were on our way. The repair had taken over 15 minutes somewhat longer than the club record of just over 4 minutes.

The hill up to Arkesden was tackled but on the descent Maurice announced that the tyre had once more gone flat.

Puncture repair take 2

Examination of the tube showed that the super patches were not as super as they claimed to be.  Fortunately Charles had joined the group and as we would expect from ex-army personnel a tube of the correct size and valve was produced. It was fitted to the tyre and pumped and pumped but the tyre refused to inflate. Inspection showed the brand new tube had a faulty seal on the tyre. A second tube was produced fitted and pumped. This time it held its pressure and so we were soon on our way.

So the Schwalbe marathon was not fixed at a sprint but with a total time of over 35 minutes, it was a marathon repair.

The Ickleton mob got wind of this once Andrew’s Group C had arrived making us feel somewhat guilty that we hadn’t helped, but then too many cooks spoil the broth, don’t they? Eventually, and looking somewhat puncture-worn, Maurice’s group arrived and soon got stuck into excellent coffee and cakes at Poppy’s Barn.

The Ickleton mob looking deadly serious – planning thier next job?
Exhausted puncture repair team waiting for their coffee and cakes

Things improved after leaving Poppy’s Barn with no other incidents to report other than soaking in the smell of Spring all around and enjoying the sounds of nesting birds. Charles’s hi-tech camera snapped away happily every 3 seconds, just like a bird singing, until the battery ran out:

……….whilst Simon’s technique is reminiscent of the old days of 35mm film when each shot cost a few bob to produce and so each photo takes some time to create, but produces marvellous results:

Maurice’s route was a perfect combination of typical Monday rides to form a circuit of 31 miles taking in familiar villages such as Ickleton, Arkesden, Stickling Green, Langley Upper and Lower Greens, Brent Pelham, Anstey, Nuthampstead, Great Chishill and back to Chrishall. This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/211881c797da89ab45f3709d6d3add02

Entering Great Chishill, a once-in-a-lifetime event was taking place when a fork lift truck was seen carrying a recently cast bell towards the church entrance. But that was not all – the five original bells, four dating back to 1686 and the fifth made in 1841 – had all been renovated and delivered back the same morning, looking very smart on the path to the church door.

Note the mistake of the foundryman from Wightman Foundry who placed a G upside down on this bell

Back at The Red Cow it was good to be joined at lunch by Bridget, Ann and Hazel and we all tucked into fish and chips, chicken and ham pie, or a burger, all of which were pronounced excellent, and washed down with equally excellent ales, wines and soft drinks, all of which were kindly paid for by Tom who had just celebrated his 70th birthday. Cheers, Tom!

And so ended a marvellous birthday ride, but not without Maurice’s puncture incidents which must already place him in the running for the 2022 puncture prize at the Christmas lunch.

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their wonderful organization, to fellow blogger Alan for his report and to photographers Simon, Charles and Brian.

Martin

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Essex Ridgewell

Fifteen go watermilling

Living up to our club name, we rarely pass a windmill without stopping for a photograph – and sometimes even a visit. We have, indeed, been known to stop and admire one of those rare delights, a tidal mill. But never to my knowledge had we visited a watermill . . . until today.

So it was that some fifteen Windmillers stopped off at Alderford Watermill in Sible Hedingham where Martin had arranged for us to have a guided tour.

Alderford Watermill, Sible Hedingham

We were shown around by Owen, one of the volunteers who maintains and keeps alive this wonderful piece of 18th century engineering. Owen explained how parts of the present mill date from around 1720 when it would have been operated by a miller and one assistant producing coarse wholemeal flour. Over the years new power sources – steam, then oil, and finally electricity – were adopted to boost output and reduce the dependency upon river flow.

Owen’s guided tour

The mill finally stopped turning in 1957 and from then on the building was used for grain storage. Now owned by Essex County Council it is lovingly maintained (and continually restored!) by Owen and his fellow volunteers, the Friends of Alderford Mill.

Earlier at the White Horse, Ridgewell, fourteen Windmillers had gathered for our regular Thursday ride. We should have been fifteen but Simon was missing. We are used to losing him during, but not before, a ride and a quick phone call established that the poor chap had mixed up the meeting point with the ride destination. Yes, he was at The Blue Egg. We hung around until Simon eventually, and somewhat sheepishly, rolled into the car park. Now we were fifteen – and all off to, yes, The Blue Egg.

Simon heads back to the Blue Egg
Chris, Sandra, Maurice, Howard and Alan near Gibraltar Mill, Great Bardfield
Coffee and cake at The Blue Egg

As ever, Maurice had chosen a wonderful route; 32 miles on quiet lanes and in perfect spring weather.

For the record the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Sandra and Simon.

Thanks are due to: Maurice and Andrew for planning the day; birthday boy Charles for buying the beers; Martin for arranging the mill tour; and Owen for his excellent guided tour of the mill.

Millwrights Simon, Hazel, Charles, Andrew, Martin, Chris and Geoff
Simon putting his neck on the line
Simon again, this time wielding a millers thingummyjig
Charles – what on earth is he doing? – and Hazel
32 miles anticlockwise from Ridgewell
Back to the White Horse for lunch. Cheers!
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11 April. Centurians on the Roman Road. 21 miles.

This was almost the reverse of last week’s ride when the tortoises decided to explore the Roman Road byway from Butts Green, near Poppy’s Barn, to Cooper’s End, primarily to get shelter from the wind. Maurice, being one of the hares on that ride, heard such good reports he decided to explore it for himself, this time as Centurian-in-Chief accompanied by his fellow Centurians Andrew, Alan, Charles, Victor, Graham and Martin.

Setting off from The Red Cow, it didn’t take long to reach Cooper’s End despite the long climb up Cogmore Hill to Duddenhoe End. The initial stretch of the Roman road is paved, not in cobblestones but in very smooth tarmac which Roman soldiers would have marvelled at. Quite how a dead-end country lane came to be given such treatment by Essex County Council is a mystery although a recently retired Tory MP, now a Baron in the House of Lords (who once repaid a £12,000 gardening bill he had claimed on Parliamentary expenses) just happens to live at Cooper’s End…………. (Enough of this tittle tattle. Ed.)

At Cosh Farm the smooth tarmac ends abruptly after which a decent surface of road planings continues, not in a dead straight line as shown on the OS map but instead wiggles its way over a ford and then down through the trees as far as Butts Green where it meets the Langley Upper Green – Clavering road. The course of the Roman road actually continues onwards towards Brent Pelham (but not on a public right of way) until it joins the lane we frequently cycle along between there and Meesden. Presumably it carried on towards Braughing and then joined Ermine Street which goes south to London and North to Godmanchester via Royston. Going north east from Cooper’s End would have taken it to Great Chesterford, a major Roman garrison town and where remains are still frequently found.

Windmill Centurians ready for battle

It was good to have Victor with us who was unfamiliar with the local lanes we use on Monday rides but soon appreciated why we like them so much. We are extraordinarily lucky in having such a peaceful and beautiful area to ride around.

It’s oil seed rape time, but no sign these days of Chinese or Japanese tourists who used to come in bus loads to see our yellow fields.

This time there was no road block between Violet’s Lane and Brent Pelham caused by sludge lorries queuing up to deposit their loads, as there was last time, and so we continued to cruise peacefully around until ascending the hills towards Great Chishill and thence to The Red Cow.

Maurice had arranged once again for chips to be available but with Alan having peeled off in Great Chishill and Graham and Andrew having to head for home, this left Maurice, Charles and Martin to scoff large helpings of chips and mayo, washed down with the usual excellent beers on offer.

And this is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/27fbebcaf035835908cb366c8d749be9

Thanks to our Centurian-in-Chief Maurice for planning the route and his deputy Andrew for organising us, plus Centurian Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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7 April. Westerly Windy Windmillers in West Wratting, or WWWWW for short. 28 miles.

48mph or 48kph? Who really cares whether they were imperial or metric gusts of wind forecasted for this ride? Both are Force 8 + on ye olde Beaufort scale and that’s just how it turned out to be for 14 hardy Windmillers as they set out from The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting on a three county circuit of lanes in Cambs, Suffolk and Essex.

Deep in conversations whilst assembling for coffee and lunch ordering at The Chestnut Tree. But what are Simon and Ric talking about?

Maurice led the first group with Ric, Charles, Nigel, Deborah, Alan, Victor and Jeremy in tow, followed shortly afterwards by Andrew, Howard, Brian, Simon, Graham and Martin. The outward leg via Great Wratting was a dream with only the occasional sideways gust reminding us of what we had in store on the return leg.

Having passed St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Kedington on many occasions, it was decided to stop on this ride and take a look inside what is commonly known as ‘The Westminster Abbey of Suffolk’, and we were not disappointed. The interior pays homage to the Barnardiston family, from the nearby hamlet of the same name, and is brimming with tombs of early family members, some of which are covered in graffiti dating back to the 1700s. (Some more recent graffiti includes the word Debbie but we didn’t see Deborah scratching away whilst we were there.)

The interior showing the elaborate roof structure and the Barnardiston family’s private pew, where they must have felt like caged animals at times.
Non-caged Windmillers admiring the wall paintings and roof.
A highlight was this 9th century Saxon Cross in fantastic condition on the windowsill above the alter, which once stood in the churchyard.

Moving on, it wasn’t long before Tarka’s Café came into view at Baythorne End – always a good place to stop for excellent coffee and oversized cakes.

As Group B was leaving the café who should be seen returning but poor Deborah whose Group A had shot off at speed and not waited for her at the first junction. She was warmly welcomed into the fold of Group B who wouldn’t dream of such behaviour.

The first section of the return leg was quite well sheltered by trees and hedges and so it was only on the exposed parts that we felt the full force of the 48mph / 48kph gusts, most probably the former judging by the speed of the cloud shadows whipping across the fields towards us.

The worst part by far was the stretch between West Wickham and the turning to West Wratting where it was tough going even pedalling downhill.

This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/087f8bf646fde57ff428fc1217236473

All agreed back at the pub that it had been the windiest ever Windmill Club ride. But where was Sandra, someone was heard to say? She would have loved living up to her name of Storm Sandra.

It was great to have Geoff join us for lunch, which was brilliant as always. The Chestnut Tree never lets us down.

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to Charles and Brian for some of the photos, more of which are on The Windmill Club site on Google. Thanks also to Jeremy for the WWWWW inspiration.

Martin

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4 April. Hares and tortoises. 20 Miles.

It didn’t matter whether you were a hare or a tortoise, there was a great selection of beers on tap at The Red Cow in Chrishall after the ride, and some great chips too, specially cooked for the six Windmillers on this ride around the lanes.

Maurice, Graham and Sandra (the hares), Andrew, Simon and Martin (the tortoises) all set off together at 4.00pm but the hares eventually charged ahead whilst the tortoises pootled along planning their forthcoming French ride, amongst other things, and how to avoid the strong wind on the return leg.

This was the planned route, taken by the hares:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/25e1cba6484da49cc78b8e384c3e3824

After a very pleasant anti-clockwise circuit via Great Chishill, Nuthampsted, Anstey, Brent Pelham and Starlings Green, the tortoises had other plans shortly after passing Poppy’s Barn when they decided to take the Roman Road byway to Coopers End, and to then rejoin the route at Duddenhoe End. Despite the recent rain this turned out to be a very pleasant route on a good surface of road planings but with a ford to cross at one point, so best done after a spell of dry weather.

Simon and Andrew admiring the primroses at Coopers End.

Back at The Red Cow, Graham peeled off, having been on the road for the best part of 4 hours, leaving the others to have a beer and tuck into the excellent chips.

Thanks, Maurice, for planning the ride and chips, and Andrew for getting us to the starting line. 4.00pm seems to be a popular time to start Monday rides and so we’re hoping for a good gathering on future Mondays now that the weather is improving. All we need now is less wind.

Martin

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Blue Ball, Grantchester Cambridge

A tour of Cambridge

Overnight snow showers put paid to Maurice’s planned outing but, come lunchtime, the snow had melted away, prompting Brian to issue an open invitation. Would anyone be interested in joining him for a lunchtime ride around Cambridge? No fewer than eight Windmillers turned up at his place in Shelford and, after a quick coffee, we set off for a tour of the town.

Setting off from Shelford, Jeremy on the newest bike, followed by Ric on the oldest

Brian led the way along the DNA cycleway to Cambridge Station and on over the Tony Carter Cycle Bridge. Named after a councillor of the day and opened in 1989, this was listed for a time in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest covered cycle bridge, lofting riders high over the railway. The only downside is its greenhouse-like design; it does get stiflingly hot in summer.

Then it was on to the Chisholm Trail, the newly opened £21 million cycling route across Cambridge, the highlight of which is a gleaming new, 40 meter long bridge spanning the river.

Graham and Martin at the newly opened cycle and footbridge across the Cam – with the old rail bridge in the background

Next we paused for a photograph by the swift tower on Logan’s Meadow. Combining conservation and public art, it’s meant to look like a pixelated African sunset (Cambridge, eh?) and, on closer inspection you can see it contains dozens of swift and bat nesting boxes.

Posing in front of the swift tower – in the distance on the left

Crossing Jesus Green, we wound our way through the town centre, past Trinity College and the tourist tat shops, before re-crossing the river and heading for Newnham and thence Grantchester, the murder capital of East Anglia; if you watch the eponymous BBC drama series you’ll know what I mean.

By Trinity College

It was in Grantchester that we pulled in at The Blue Ball for lunch, a couple of beers and, if Deborah had had her way, a traditional pub game. Her curiosity had been piqued by the large ring slung from a rope attached to the ceiling and, but for the timely intervention of the landlady, she would have swung it with gusto over the heads of anxious diners. However, Ringing the Bull is best played in an empty bar and, thankfully, we will never know whether the club insurance would have paid out for third party pub injuries.

Back on the bikes, it was a short return leg – via Hauxton – to Shelford.

17 miles anticlockwise from Great Shelford

For the record Brian, Deborah, Graham, Jeremy, Martin, Ric, Sandra, Victor clocked up a respectable 17 miles.

Brian