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28 March. Axe and Compasses axed by fire. 20 miles.

News of the tragic fire which destroyed the Grade 2 listed Axe and Compasses pub in Arkesden began to circulate shortly after 11.45am on 27 March, just before 150 diners were due to celebrate Mother’s Day. Popular with Windmillers, both as a stopping point whilst on a ride and for meals with family and friends, the pub will be sorely missed by many people. The moussaka was legendary – how far do we have to go now to enjoy such good minced lamb, aubergines and tomatoes with a cheese sauce on top?

It was therefore appropriate for seven Windmillers to pay their respects, namely Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Simon, Charles, Graham and Martin, who started the ride at The Red Cow in Chrishall before passing through Arkesden.

Ten fire engines arrived from Saffron Walden, Newport and Stansted to tackle the blaze but were unable to save the building due to the rapid spread of the fire through a thatched roof. Only part of the building remained, on the right hand side, but this was severely damaged by water penetration. Our sympathies go to the Christou family who have run the pub for over 30 years, dishing up several tons of moussaka during that time.

Moving on through Clavering and Starlings Green it wasn’t long before we took a left down Violets Lane and through the remains of some thick mud before heading towards Brent Pelham, only to find our path blocked by a huge sludge lorry attempting to head towards us. Quite how he was planning to attempt the corner at Violets Lane, we didn’t stop to enquire but we managed to just squeeze past. All became clear when we then came across what must be a record jam of sludge lorries in Hertfordshire – not just one but seven in total!

Windmillers take the field edge by-pass to get round the sludge lorries. Luckily, not a car in sight.
Left or right of the lorry ahead? Decisions decisions.
Graham keeping his distance from a lorry load of sludge. William Gilder specialise in shifting nasty smelling stuff and were most probably connecting their lorries up to the pipe on the left to discharge bio-waste / slurry on to the adjacent field.

Writing about sludge brings back memories of an awful Limerick once heard about sewage:

There once was a man named McBride.
Who fell in the sewer and died.
The same day his brother
Fell in another,
And they were interred side by side.

(Love the last line!)

Back at The Red Cow, Andrew and Graham headed back home, Graham having been on the road since 2.00pm when he was spotted on Coploe Hill by Martin, who was tending his allotment. Graham was followed by Andrew, leaving the remaining five to have a drink and a laugh. And thanks to Charles for buying a round of drinks, and for some of the photos.

Thanks to Maurice as always for organising a pleasant route and Andrew for his organisation.

This is where we went:

Martin

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