09:30 Thursday morning saw Andrew, John, Keith, Ric, Sandra and the Brians (Brummie & Yorkshire) parking up behind the Fleur de Lys. Andrew had promised us a new route taking in Hatfield Forest; virgin territory for the Windmill Club. But thunderstorms were forecast and, sure enough, the rain started just as we set off down the hill from Widdington. Fearing a soaking, Keith turned back to the Fleur, while the rest of us soldiered on. Lo and behold, we were rewarded within five minutes. The rain stopped, the clouds lifted and for the rest of the day we were bathed in sunshine. God truly smiles on the righteous!
At first we were on familiar territory, wheeling past Rickling and Braughing on our way to Much Hadham, where we pulled into Hopleys Café, a delightful spot with a lovely garden, good coffee, a fabulous selection of homemade cakes and – John was gratified to discover – bottled Adnams. Sandra and Brummie Brian, knowing it’s wise to take on fuel at every possible opportunity, ordered generous portions of blueberry cake.
Back on the bikes, there was some debate about the best route; Andrew pointing one way and John the other. Should we trust a Scotsman’s knowledge of Hertfordshire? Or an Englishman with a dog-eared map, circa 1960? Where’s the M11 on here, John?
Eventually, we found our way to Hatfield Forest via quiet lanes through the picturesque villages of Green Tye and Spellbrook. But by this time it was becoming clear we weren’t going to make it back to Widdington in time for lunch. We considered our options; meanwhile Andrew phoned the Fleur and made apologies.
Alas, the next hostelry, The Three Horseshoes at Molehill Green, couldn’t accommodate us for lunch, at least not without a long wait. So we supped beer and munched peanuts in the garden while we watched the planes take off from Stansted. Lean pickings indeed; and there were still many miles to go!
The final leg, through Pledgdon Green and Henham (where we waved goodbye to John as he entered The Cock Inn) and the climb up to Widdington, was hard work on empty stomachs, but we persevered, getting back to the Fleur just as it was closing at 3pm.
All in all, we clocked up 43 miles, which was impressive given that most of us did it on coffee, beer and peanuts.
Despite the hunger pangs, it was a lovely day spent in good company. Thanks, Andrew, for the new route – and apologies to Landlord Chris for missing lunchtime at the Fleur. We promise to bring an extra large gang of Windmillers next time.