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1 September. Bellissimo ride in deepest Essex. 32 miles

After an inaugural ride from The Red Lion in Great Sampford a few weeks back, Windmillers demanded a repeat ride in order to once again enjoy the wonderful Italian food on offer at this otherwise traditional English pub. A perfect combination!

Eighteen Windmillers were due to take part but in the event we had sixteen comprising Andrew, Geoff, Sandra, Brian, Charles, Howard, Chris, Jenni, Graham, Rod, Hazel, Jeremy, Deborah, Ken, Ric and Martin, all dead set on working up an appetite for dishes ranging from Tagliatelle with Fresh Lobster to Pollo Con Funghi. The Spaghetti with Mixed Seafood proved to be the most popular choice.

So, with lunch all sorted, the first group of eight led by Geoff set off at 9.30 towards Castle Hedingham using the reverse of the route used previously but it wasn’t long before the second group overtook them whilst Deborah’s saddle was being adjusted by Graham. And it more or less stayed that way until a stop was made by everyone in Great Yeldham to admire the remains of an ancient oak tree (as above) held together with metal straps and concrete – dead as a dodo it seems but a nice reminder all the same of what was clearly a massive tree, assisted perhaps by being next to a ford on the Cambridge – Colchester road. Here is the plaque which gives the full history:

Instead of using the same farm shop café as last time (but well worth another visit there) the route took us via another new coffee venue, this time the Old Moot Tearoom and Bistro in Castle Hedingham who looked after us very well, even though cramming sixteen into the garden didn’t leave much room for other guests. A large interior suggested it could be an ideal place to warm up on a cold winter’s day…. It was great to hear of Sandra’s early experiences of driving HGVs around London and the Midlands, and being told not to worry about warning lights on the dashboard.

After coffee, the lovely church of St. Nicholas was seen hiding in the corner of a quiet lane:

The magnificent Grade 1 listed church of St Nicholas in Castle Hedingham. Intriguingly, some of the materials used are older than the church itself, which dates back to Norman times. It seems that when parts of the nearby older castle were demolished the bricks came in handy for building the church. The eastern elevation has one of only five Norman wheel windows thought to still exist in England, with splendid stained glass. Deborah suggested a return visit and a tour would be in order.
Guess who took this photo? Brian, of course, lying prostrated on the road in his usual style. Luckily it was dry. Thanks, Brian!

Setting off on the return leg took us on a different, longer route than used before which took us though some lovely quiet lanes with steep hills in places, winding bends and what could easily be a deep ford in winter months. Emerging once again in Great Bardfield but then taking another different route to the road leading back to Great Sampford, we eventually arrived back at The Red Lion bang on time for lunch at 1.10pm to find Maurice waiting for us.

Tucking into bellissimo food back at The Red Lion, Charles being the most colourful character amongst us.

This is where we went:

Can’t wait for the next visit!

Martin

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