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13 May. Record ride? Not quite. 28 miles.

Maurice, Andrew, Roger, Ric, Chris, Brian, Alan, Tom, Deborah, Victor, Geoff, Alan, Charles, Howard, Suzanne, Nigel, Graham, Hazel (guest for the day) and Martin were expecting Lawrence to join them on this ride, which would have made a record turnout of 20 Windmillers. But poor Lawrence had torn a leg muscle whilst out running and so couldn’t make it at the last minute. Suzanne was suffering likewise but, fortunately in her case, she was able to cycle but not run.

It was great to welcome back Nigel who we hadn’t seen since the first lockdown – a sign that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel provided it’s not an Indian train coming in the other direction. And Graham invited a fellow Ickletonian to join us for the day, Hazel Turton.

Hazel Turton, our guest for the day.

The starting point was The Fox and Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead where we were welcomed by the landlady and her staff at 9.00am for a civilised coffee and the placing of lunch orders before setting off on a quiet, twisty- turny route through very minor lanes in North Essex – how does Maurice do it? The man’s a miracle.

This is where we went:

There seems to be always someone who is the centre of attention on a ride and this week it was the turn of Tom who arrived without his helmet (so easily done in the morning rush). Deborah came to the rescue (as often happens in these situations) and promptly whizzed off with Tom to a friend’s house to collect one. That made Tom, Deborah, Brian and Roger the last of three groups to set off, the first one being led by Maurice who shot off as usual at high speed and Martin leading the second group. But it wasn’t long before groups merged, demerged and even went different ways before all met up at Winners Café in Finchingfield for more coffee.

Tom’s second claim to fame was when he stopped to have a drink of water only to discover that when the bottle was squeezed it shattered into small pieces, smothering him with water in the process. He admitted later that the bottle could have been quite ancient and had been sitting in hot sun which could have made it brittle.

Tom with the remains of his shattered water bottle, and his borrowed helmet, whilst Roger looks beside himself with laughter.
St. John the Baptist church in Finchingfield, dating from the 14th Century. Given the dominant location of the building, it is thought the tower was used for both defensive purposes and for worship. There was once a spire but it was blown down during a gale in 1658 and never rebuilt. All that survives of it is the 15th century angelus bell, which is now in the cupola built in place of the spire atop the tower. We passed several other churches with large square towers which may have likewise been used to repel the enemy.
The Grade 1 Listed Guildhall in Finchingfield with its archway to the churchyard.

Winners Café did us proud as the horde of Windmillers descended on them like locusts, hoovering up cakes galore and drinking excellent coffee. Well done to the staff for handling such a large group with great efficiency.

It was only a short ride back to Steeple Bumpstead where excellent beer and a good lunch was devoured in the courtyard at the back of the pub, the drinks being very generously paid for by Mike whose birthday we celebrated in an out-of-tune style. If choirmaster Lawrence had been with us we might have achieved a better rendering of Happy Birthday. Room for improvement before the next birthday is celebrated, which seem to be coming fast and furious at present.

Cheers, MIke. Thanks for the drinks. Happy Birthday and congratulations on having the reaction time of an 18 year old (as opposed to the Ed. being ranked as an 81 year old). Keep on rowing (i.e. pulling oars, not arguing with your wife).

For those who rode to and from Steeple Bumpstead, Graham, Hazel and Ric, the weather changed dramatically after lunch resulting in a thorough drenching on the way back which was very unlucky for them.

Once again, thanks to Maurice for devising an excellent route, to Andrew for organising us and to all those who have contributed photographs. Keep ’em coming.

Martin (Ed.)

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