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19 December 2019 – Flat Tyres and Rusty Chains

Deborah and her pit crew

Thursday morning and we were about to set off from the Fleur, when Andrew’s phone rang. “Be there in a mo,” said Deborah, apologising profusely. Sure enough within five minutes she was pulling her bike from the car and raring to go. We couldn’t help but notice, however, her remarkably rusty chain, not to mention two almost-flat tyres.

The Windmillers enjoy a scrapheap challenge and so, in a trice, Brian had produced a stirrup pump and Simon, resourceful chap, had disappeared into the pub kitchen in search of oil. Deborah looked on bemused as Andrew pumped her tyres and Simon – courtesy of Chef – applied liberal doses of extra virgin olive oil to all moving parts.

Oily Simon and Windy Andrew

With the bicycle maintenance done, we were off – Andrew leading the way, followed by Deborah, Martin, Simon, Victor, Howard, Graham and Brian – the tail-enders taking care to avoid the growing trail of olive oil.

But we had only gone a mile when Simon picked up a puncture on the muddy road near the quarry. This was soon fixed – though given the filthy condition of the roads hereabouts – poor old Simon was now coated in a mucky emulsion of mud and olive oil.

Parrishes Tea Room in Thaxted

Thankfully, it was plain sailing from there on and, within the hour we were pulling in for coffee and cake at Thaxted.

Refreshed and back on the bikes, Andrew took us down a little known byway, cunningly signed “Strictly Private” by the farmer – though a quick check on the OS map showed it was indeed a public thoroughfare. Somewhat muddy (let’s try it again in the summer), this picturesque lane took us through the tiny hamlet of Tindon End and emerged just outside Great Sampford.

Pausing for pictures in Hempstead, we were saddened to see the Bluebell pub – birthplace of Dick Turpin – had closed.

Notorious highwayman, Graham Dolman

Arriving back at the Fleur, we were delighted to be joined by Maurice, Nigel and Ken – and Deborah kindly bought us all a beer.

Thanks for the beers, Deborah!

Thanks go to Andrew for planning it all.

And a Merry Christmas to all our readers!

29 miles anticlockwise from Widdington

Brian

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