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17 February. The lull between Dudley and Eunice. 26 – 31 miles.

Storms Dudley and Eunice had a truce on 17 February but Eunice was declared the victor after a ferocious attack on houses and trees the following day when record gusts of wind were recorded. Even so, the lull was still expected to produce winds of 38mph and so at the last minute the management decided to shorten the route. It was therefore most appropriate that we would be riding through:

The rivers were already full (that’s Barwick Ford in the featured photo above which some brave Windmillers often cycle through) and so there was potentially an interesting ride ahead, starting from The Golden Fleece in Braughing.

Fourteen Windmillers gathered together at 9.00am to place their orders for lunch before departing ahead of schedule, the last group leaving at 9.25am. Perhaps the thought of game stew and dumplings at lunch was already producing hunger pangs for some.

Maurice was the first to whizz off with his group A of 5 followed by Andrew’s group B of 4 and finally Brian’s group C of 5. The route was a clockwise circuit taking in Puckeridge, Barwick Ford, Ware, Hertford, Sacombe Park and back to Puckeridge, except for Martin and Graham who chose a longer route (or so they claimed) via Westmill, Buntingford and Hare Street to clock up 31 miles in all. (In fact, it was a major navigational error by Martin, having stopped to take the Nasty photo above, so he’s already in the running for the annual got lost award normally won by Simon).

Despite the change of plan, the lanes were pleasantly quiet and sheltered and so there really was a lull between storms Dudley and Eunice.

Hazel, Roger, Martin and Graham take the high road across Barwick Ford
Fanham’s Hall in Wareside brought back happy memories for Hazel who attended management training courses there whilst working for Sainsbury’s. It is an 18th-century Queen Anne House-style country house and is Grade II* listed, now operating as a hotel. The interior is decorated in the Arts and Crafts style with plasterwork by L A Turner and stained glass by Morris and Co. in the library. A former owner Lady Brocket had a keen interest in horticulture and influenced the employment of Japanese gardeners to create the Hall’s formal gardens. Her ornamental lakes and choice of trees (such as Japanese maples) can still be seen in the present-day formal grounds, as can the “Fuji-yama Mound” which was built with earth from the Hall’s lakes.[1]The garden is listed grade II on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The grounds are open to the public and groups of visitors welcomed, even sweaty Windmillers some time in the future. Could be a good base for a ride or coffee stop?

Stopping for coffee in Ware was very pleasant, as usual, most choosing to sit inside to warm up a bit. Andrew was left out in the cold, however, on account of his Covid avoidance measures prior to departing on a cruise around the Caribbean.

The return leg was initially Cycle Route no. 61 along the towpath of the River Lee towards Hertford which is always a delight, but quite busy with pedestrians so care was needed.

Navigating through the meadows after Hertford Lock took some doing for Group C, and maybe the others too, due to the bridge towards Bengeo Hall being closed but a quick U-turn soon had the group heading in the right direction. Once out of Hertford the traffic eased and we were alone in Sacombe Park before heading to Dane End and Great Munden, where a pal of Maurice owns the village church. Maurice’s pals seem to own large chunks of Hertfordshire.

The Nasty experience was fine for everyone except Martin and Graham who arrived for lunch to find Group A had already finished and Group B were half way through. However, there was still plenty of game stew and dumplings left which was voted extremely good by those who had it.

Martin and Graham arriving slightly late for lunch
Empty plates in evidence for Group A (Hazel and Roger from Group C waiting patiently for their lunch to arrive)
We even had our own Court Jester to entertain us.

Thanks to the management team of Maurice and Andrew for organising and amending the ride to 26 miles at short notice (but only Martin and Graham achieved the usual 30 miles or so, unintentionally.) Thanks also to photographers, Brian, Charles and Deborah.

Martin

PS. This is what Eunice did to Martin’s beloved walnut tree the following day. Deborah and Jenni stopped by to take a look.

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