Would you rather be lost with Maurice or lost with Andrew? That was the tricky decision faced by a dozen Windmillers as we set off from the Golden Fleece on Thursday morning. But the question was academic as Andrew, brooking no dissent, picked two teams of six. We were off! And, in fairness, our worries were groundless; both leaders knew the route very well and neither got us lost.
We had been warned there would be no stopping at a café so, having brought our own refreshments, we found a pleasant spot to sip coffee and munch biscuits in the September sunshine.
Now we all know Martin likes gadgets – more the steampunk kind than electronic – and so, chancing on this fearsome piece of kit in someone’s front garden, he dismounted and took a snap . . .
It’s an Allen Scythe – a petrol powered lawn mower to you and me – guaranteed to transform rough pasture into a passable domestic lawn. These were made from 1935 until 1973 and although many are still in regular use they can be dangerous; the clutch system only disengages the wheel drive from the engine, leaving the blades turning. Health and Safety be damned, eh?
Both teams returned safely to the Fleece and enjoyed an excellent lunch served up by Landlord Peter.
Thanks as ever to our team leaders, Maurice and Andrew. These are difficult times to plan outings but, week in – week out, you rise to the challenge and get us all organised. It is much appreciated.
It wasn’t Andrew’s day. Not only did he suffer a flat tyre before we had even left the pub car park – but then he was stung on the neck by a wasp. He swears it was a hornet; no doubt it was the size of a Tam O Shanter.
Apart from that, it was another excellent ride. Starting from the Rising Sun, Halls Green, Maurice steered us in a wide loop around Stevenage, so wide indeed that – apart from the odd glimpse from afar – the town remained out of sight. The surrounding countryside is hilly – but the roads are quiet and the scenery delightful.
Half way round, we pulled in at Whitwell to visit Emily’s Tea Room, one of our favourite haunts, where we particularly enjoyed the homemade crumpets and jam.
For the record, our peloton comprised Maurice, Andrew, Alan, Chris, Roger, Mike, Graham, Charles, Rod, Howard and Brian – and upon returning to the Rising Sun, Simon joined us for lunch. Recovering after his recent surgical procedure he reported he had one black one and one white one. Oo-er, we hope he is in the pink again soon.
And then to cap it all, a lovely surprise – Vernon turned up, accompanied by wife Moira. We hadn’t seen our old pal for a long time so it was particularly good to catch up with him again. Indeed, it was Vernon himself who first introduced us to The Rising Sun three years ago; you can read all about it here.
Thanks, Maurice, for another great outing. Andrew too, ever cheerful in the face of adversity, for getting us all organised.
We like the Fox & Hounds at Steeple Bumpstead, not least because Landlady Kate provides coffee and biscuits while we wait for Deborah, who generally arrives just as we are draining our cups.
Refreshed and ready to go, twelve Windmillers attempt to form two equal sized pelotons in conformance with government guidelines*. Only it never quite works out, Maurice heading out with eight riders while Brian musters just four. Maybe some can’t count? Maybe – quite understandably – others fear getting lost with Brian? Or maybe it’s just our Keystone Cops-like inability to get organised. Who knows.
Whatever the reason, all twelve somehow found their way to Clare where we enjoyed some excellent coffee and cake at Platform One, the café in the long-disused railway station.
From Clare we made short work of the return trip to Steeple Bumpstead where Landlady Kate served up a hearty lunch washed down with a restorative ale.
For the record, this week’s riders were: Maurice, Howard, Roger, Deborah, Jenni, Alan, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Charles, Lawrence and Brian – and Ken joined us for lunch.
Thanks, Maurice, for organising another terrific outing.
*As of Thursday, 27 August 2020, Cycling UK’s guidance is that groups of up to fifteen can ride provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Read more.
Socially distanced cycling, eh? Who’d have thought? Whereas our peloton used to be upwards of a dozen strong – a veritable rolling roadblock – we now only venture out in groups of six or less, appropriately spaced. This week it was Maurice leading the first group and Brian the second. Trouble was, Brian didn’t really know the route, relying instead on tail-enders Graham and Rod to shout directions from the rear.
So it was that Maurice, followed by Roger, Ken, Alan and Chris set off from The Rushbrooke Arms, Sicklesmere, heading for Gedding – followed ten minutes later by Brian, Victor, Deborah, Mike, Graham and Rod – Brian making sure he kept within earshot of Graham and Rod.
Sunshine and the beautiful Suffolk countryside ensured a very pleasant outbound ride to Lavenham, where we pulled in for refreshments at The Swan. Most ordered coffee and teacakes – but Graham, who had already cycled the extra 35 miles from home – was desperate to wet his whistle with a pint. Coffee and teacakes were served aplenty but, despite increasingly desperate reminders to the staff, the beer did not materialise and poor old Graham took the saddle just as thirsty as when he arrived.
Returning to Sicklesmere via Bridge Street, Shimpling and Hawstead, we enjoyed an alfresco lunch at the The Rushbrooke Arms where, thankfully, Graham managed to down a few restorative pints ahead of his 35 mile return home, neighbour Mike joining him for the ride.
Thanks, Maurice, for planning the route and leading the way on such a delightful outing.
Thursday morning in Steeple Bumpstead and we were hopeful of a fine morning’s cycling ahead of the thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. But thunder was already heard as we unloaded the bikes and rain followed shortly after. There was nothing for it but to retire to the Fox & Hounds for an early coffee.
The worst of the downpour passed and we ventured out on the wet roads; the first group – Maurice in the lead followed by Lawrence, Howard, Roger and Simon – followed some five minutes later by the second group comprising Brian, Deborah, Geoff, Graham and Mike.
We had gone barely three miles when the rain came down again, only this time in torrents. Soon the road was awash and we could barely see where we were going. In Stambourne, Maurice’s group sought shelter under the church lych-gate. Old English for corpse-gate, this was the sheltered meeting place where a funeral party would gather and where the priest would receive the shroud-wrapped body and commence the funeral rites.
What better port in a storm for five sodden Windmillers?
Meanwhile, Brian’s group, caught out by the deluge on a quiet lane, sought shelter in a cowshed. The cows didn’t seem to mind and neither did the farmer who, turning up to unblock a storm drain and initially startled by the sight of sodden cyclists in her barn, said we were very welcome – but we weren’t to milk the cows.
Half an hour later the rain had stopped and we headed out again, skirting the deeper puddles. Ten miles down the road, the sun was shining and we were almost dry again.
Mike, joining us for the first time, was on a fixie – a great way to keep fit as you have to go all out and attack every hill; either that or get off and push, which doesn’t look cool. Mike crested every hill with ease; we were impressed.
Given all the delays, there was no time for our usual coffee stop in Finchingfield as we were expected back at the Fox & Hounds for lunch. Instead we sailed on through the picturesque village and out past the windmill, heading for Cornish Hall End and the final leg back to Steeple Bumpstead.
Enjoying a beer at the pub, we were glad to report no punctures, no broken chains, no e-bike breakdowns, no disputing the highway code with wayward drivers – and nobody had fallen off. A triumph!
Thanks, Maurice for another great outing – and a belated Happy Birthday to Roger, who bought the beers.
After such an eventful ride it was a relief to get back to the cars and relax with a picnic.
The day had started badly for Rod when the e-part of his e-bike failed, rendering it a p-bike (go figure). Even with the battery removed, pedalling an electric bike can be challenging, they are anything but lightweight. Rod had a tough day’s riding ahead.
Then there was Andrew’s chain. Half way into the ride and pulling up for a comfort break, he noticed a semi-detached link; clearly, an accident waiting to happen. There was nothing for it but to up-end the bike and effect a repair. His usual bike mechanic, Tom Robinson, being unavailable, it fell to Andrew to do his own dirty work; and his was a truly filthy chain, mired in the accumulated muck of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Normandy and Brittany.
With assistance from Maurice, tools from Brian and much effing and jeffing from Andrew himself, the chain was eventually made whole again, albeit a little shorter than before.
Meanwhile the rest of us used the time to take on water, munch snacks and generally loll about. Charles took great interest in a passing canine, evidently some sort of rare breed, engaging the lady owner in small talk. She seemed quite taken with his stripey hose.
A mere 45 minutes or so later and we were underway once more. Strung out over half a mile, our peloton was steadily overtaken by an energetic female rider. Maurice on his e-bike was comfortably able to keep up with Carol (as we subsequently learned her name was) and struck up a conversation. Hearing we could do with a coffee, Carol very kindly led us to The Anchor, her local in Stoke-by-Nayland. Unfortunately the landlord refused to contemplate opening up half an hour early. Nonetheless, we thanked Carol, for her solicitude and, bidding her farewell, continued on to Kersey, surely one of the prettiest of Suffolk villages, where we were delighted to find The Bell open and welcoming.
Sod the coffee, let’s have a real drink – seemed to be the general feeling as we formed a socially distanced queue at the bar – and Rod, now looking distinctly red in the face, expressed strong approval. What’s more, having missed celebrating his birthday during lockdown, Charles insisted on buying the beers. Thank you, Charles, and a belated very happy birthday to you.
It would be nice to report that the rest of the outing passed uneventfully; but that wasn’t to be. We were on the last mile and approaching Long Melford when Andrew was overtaken dangerously by a Volvo estate; indeed, not just cut-up but yelled at by the driver. Catching up with the Volvo at a junction, strong opinions were exchanged on both sides before we all went our separate ways. If only that had been the end of it.
Arriving back at the cars and setting out our chairs, tables and picnic, we sat down to enjoy the fine prospect across Long Melford green. Rod, in particular, was very relieved to get back and set about his sandwiches with great gusto. Quite how he had managed to keep up with us over 34 miles, we will never know; but somehow he did. Well done, Rod, that was quite a workout.
Alas, the pleasant ambience of our picnic spot was disturbed when the Volvo driver reappeared, driving across the green and pulling up alongside us to complain about her car being scratched. Andrew, remaining impressively calm and businesslike, thought it best to de-escalate things by exchanging details. After all, this is what our club insurance with Cycling UK is for and – thankfully – the heat was taken out of the encounter. Well done, Andrew, for handling things in such a business-like manner.
For the record, the 34 miles was completed in two socially distanced groups: Maurice leading Brian, Ken, Chris, Simon and Graham, followed five minutes later by Andrew leading Lawrence, Charles and Rod.
Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising things and leading the two groups.
Thursday morning saw the Windmillers gathering at the Golden Fleece, unloading their bicycles, strapping on helmets and applying liberal doses of sun tan lotion, while Landlady Jess stood by to take our orders for lunch.
Come 09:15, we were off, in two socially distanced groups, one led by Maurice, the other by Andrew, heading south towards Puckeridge. Alas, Simon, in his haste to leave the house, had grabbed the nearest bike to hand and only now – some two miles into the ride – realised his saddle was uncomfortably high. Pulling over to make adjustments, he enquired whether anyone had a spanner. Delving into saddle bags, we mustered an impressive collection of multitools and hex keys – but nobody had what Simon actually needed, which was a good old British Standard Whitworth half inch spanner. Nothing for it, Simon, but to sit tall in the saddle and remember to always dismount alongside a high kerb.
And that wasn’t the end of his travails. Along the route, we got quite used to dodging various bits that fell off Simon’s machine; a broken reflector here, a detached derailleur cable there, and from time to time the rear peloton caught up with the front peloton providing ample opportunity to return the various components to their rightful owner.
And what a lovely route it was, taking in Barwick, Whempstead, Benington, Walkern and Ardeley – where we pulled in for refreshments at Church Farm. It is a sign of these COVID times that most establishments take an inordinately long time to serve a dozen or so Windmillers. There is usually only one person allowed behind the counter to take our orders, make the coffee, serve cake, take payment, etc. But hey, at our time of life, what’s the hurry?
Church Farm comes up trumps, however, for lending obscure tools to distressed cyclists; a friendly mechanic providing Simon with a half inch Whitworth spanner. Top chap!
Back on the bikes, we made the return leg – via Wood End, Haultwick, Great Munden and the delightfully named village of Nasty – to Braughing and the Golden Fleece where our hosts, Peter and Jess, served up an excellent lunch and Howard, this week’s birthday boy, bought the beers.
A big thank you – as ever – to Maurice and Andrew for organising another superb outing. And well done, Simon, for managing twenty something – fairly hilly – miles using just two gears.
Thursday morning saw the usual suspects – plus Alan who we hadn’t seen for a long time – gathering in the car park of the Red Cow at Chrishall.
Splitting into two socially distanced groups, Maurice led the first group off towards Fowlmere, followed by Brian’s group some five minutes later.
We made the outbound leg via Shepreth and Orwell – and then, rather than take our usual route through Wimpole, we carried on to the top of Old Wimpole Road to try out the new cycle trail. A lovely addition to our list of local routes, the trail loops around the north and west boundaries of the estate to Arrington before turning back towards the Hall and café, some three miles in all with very good views of the house, folly and countryside beyond.
It was along this trail that two of our members somehow managed to fall off their bikes. First to take a tumble was Roger, a low speed involuntary dismount executed in some style, followed shortly afterwards by Alan who just keeled over into the bushes.
Back on the bikes we made the return leg via Barrington and Foxton before steeling ourselves for the long uphill climb to Chrishall.
We enjoyed an excellent lunch in the pub garden and celebrated another lockdown-delayed birthday. Last week it was Rod’s; this time it was Deborah’s turn – and she very kindly treated us all to a beer. Happy Birthday, Debs!
Thanks, Maurice, for planning another delightful outing – and, of course, Deborah for the beers.
Saddened to hear of the death of Victor’s wife, Rose, a few weeks ago, Thursday’s outing provided an opportunity to send our condolences and make a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Humberstone family’s nominated charity.
Maurice had mapped out a 30 mile circuit – to be tackled either individually or in socially distanced small groups – taking in Chrishall, Arkesden, Rickling, Manuden, Hazel End, Farnham, the Pelhams and the Langleys. Along the way showers threatened, catching some Windmillers and sparing others, but the roads were quiet and the countryside scenic.
Pulling in to Chrishall, Charles hosted us on his croquet lawn, laying on lashings of beer and plentiful nibbles.
Sporting his signature stripey hose, his natty footwear accessorised with colourful Hickies, Charles was the clear winner of this week’s Best Shod Windmiller Award, Suzanne coming a close second in her shocking pink / rich plum trainers.
Counting the charity box takings, Andrew announced we had collected £440, a club record, and Maurice proposed we make it up with club funds to £500 for this very special cause.
Thanks, as ever to Maurice and Andrew for organising things; Charles too for his hospitality.
As ever, you will find more pictures in the gallery on our website.
Ah, those idyllic summer rides; tyres singing on the tarmac, the wind in your hair, the breeze in your gusset.
The warmest day of the year saw nineteen Windmillers turn out for a tour of Fowlmere, Shrepreth, Littlington, Wimpole, Barrington and Newton. Not just socially distanced, but widely distributed around a 29 mile circuit, our runners and riders were Maurice, Andrew, Howard, Charles, Ric, Geoff, Graham, Martin, Suzanne, Chris, Tom, Deborah, Jenni, Roger, Rod, Ken, Yorkie Brian, Brummie Brian and Lawrence.
Maurice having planned the route, Andrew ensured our starts were spread out, half of us going clockwise and half anticlockwise. And Lawrence, top chap, hosted the beer and charity box in his garden at Fowlmere.
Maurice, on his antique yellow bike, sustained an early puncture but – as the rest of us weren’t around to help (ie hinder) – he had it fixed and back on the road in record time.
Crossing the Wimpole estate, we pulled in for a takeaway coffee at the café. The service was so slow, however, that Martin and Suzanne attempted that old queue jumping trick of striking up an avid conversation with a friend near the front. Alas, a brisk rebuke from upstanding members of the National Trust saw them suitably shamed and sent scurrying to the back of the queue. Tut, tuts all round.
Lawrence, keen to get back and host the Fowlmere refreshments, pushed himself so hard he could barely walk after dismounting. And Simon whizzing around to finish in a personal best time, was disappointed to narrowly miss his target of two hours. Maybe next time – with the help of shaved legs and some figure hugging lycra – he will fulfil that dream.
The pubs may be closed and the rules forbid gatherings of more than six – but that doesn’t mean we can’t all share a 30 mile route. Joining at different places around the circuit, some going clockwise, others anticlockwise, it’s fun to glimpse fellow Windmillers along the way. Sometimes it’s just to exchange a friendly wave, other times to pull over for a socially distanced chat on a quiet lane. What larks!
Sorry to have missed Andrew, Howard, Ken and any other Windmillers who didn’t cross the photographer’s path. Will get you next time.
Andrew reports we collected £110 for charity.
Thanks, Maurice for another lovely route. And a special thanks to Simon for the pop-up, self-service bar in Littlebury Green; the refreshments were much appreciated.
PS You may notice we have updated the website; a new look and a few new pages too. Check it out.
The morning had started fair, twelve Windmillers exiting the Golden Fleece car park heading for Clavering. But poor old Maurice suffered an early setback when the e-part of his e-bike gave up the ghost and he was forced to return to the pub leaving us at the mercy of Andrew – who assured us he knew the route. We looked at our feet, “Mmmm, we’ll see.”
We needn’t have worried. We suspect he made it up as he went along but Andrew’s route, while distinctly wiggly, took us along quiet lanes in picturesque countryside.
Sixteen miles in, we pulled up for refreshments at Poppy’s Barn, our first visit to this little gem of a tea room in the middle of nowhere; the tiny hamlet of Butt’s Green being the nearest habitation. The coffee and cake were exceedingly good and Graham spoke highly of the hot chocolate with marshmallow topping.
We may have been cosy in Poppy’s but outside the weather had taken a turn for the worst; steady rain. Exiting the tearoom, we huddled under the barn eaves, donning oilskins and sou’westers while we contemplated our options. Go back inside and eat more cake? Send Sandra on alone to fetch her van? She didn’t like that idea at all. Resolute, we mounted our dripping wet bikes and – heads down – pedalled the 10 miles or so back to the pub.
Landlord Peter gave us a warm welcome and served up an excellent lunch; we particularly enjoyed his pie and a pint fare.
For the record, the 12 hardy Windmillers gently steaming in the Golden Fleece were: Maurice, Deborah, Andrew, Nigel, Ken, Martin, Sandra, Graham, Victor, Rod, Lawrence and Brian.
Despite the weather it was a very enjoyable outing. Many thanks to Andrew for improvising such a good route. Let’s do it again on a fine day.
Thursday morning saw nine Windmillers – Maurice, Andrew, Nigel, Victor, Rod, Graham, Ken, Howard and Brian – set off from the Fleur de Lys for an excursion to East Hertfordshire where Nigel had invited us to his place for coffee. So it was that after an hour and a half’s peddling we pulled into the delightful village of Bury Green, where he and Sue have lived for some 35 years, restoring the house, raising a family and sharing their lives with various motorbikes, donkeys and horses.
We were admiring Nigel’s workshop – with its in-floor hydraulic lift, vast collection of tools and some very shiny motorbikes – when the aroma of fresh cake drew us towards the kitchen and Sue’s baked treats. After four slices of buttered tea loaf Brian was seen struggling to get back on his bike – and there were reports that Andrew had similarly overindulged on Sue’s excellent shortbread. We can’t wait to tell Keith what he’s missed.
The return leg – via the Pelhams and Rickling Green – passed uneventfully and we made good time back to the Fleur for lunch and a few beers at our usual table by the fire.
A very big thanks to Sue and Nigel for their hospitality. Also Maurice and Andrew for planning everything.
A distinctly damp morning saw ten Windmillers gathering at the Black Bull in Balsham for our regular Thursday outing.
Maurice led the way out of the pub car park followed by Geoff, Graham, Deborah, Ken, Howard, Andrew, Victor, Rod and Brian. For once, everyone had mudguards, even Deborah; she no longer needs to be hosed down on arriving home on Thursdays.
We followed Maurice through Withersfield, Great Wratting, Kedington and Baythorne End before pulling in at the Fox and Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead. Maurice having phoned ahead, the landlady opened up early for us and we sipped coffee in front of a roaring fire.
Back on the bikes, we headed for Helions Bumpstead and Bartlow, pausing for a photo at Olmstead Green to mark the spot where Roger came a cropper on his first outing with the club.
Arriving back at the Black Bull, Brian – this week’s birthday boy – bought the beers and we laughed at some early photos of a well known Windmiller. Would you recognise this dapper chap?
Thanks, Maurice for another wonderful outing – and Andrew for organising things.
A chilly Monday lunchtime saw a posse of six riders set off from the Blind Fiddler for a 20 mile circuit around the Pelhams – or that was the plan. Andrew led the way followed by Neil, Rod, Charles, Sandra and Brian. We had only gone 6 miles, however, when Rod came a cropper on a slippery bend in Furneux Pelham, taking a heavy tumble and hitting the tarmac head first. We all agreed it best to curtail the outing and get Rod home to recuperate.
Sandra was the hero of the hour, cycling back to Anstey, collecting her van and returning to the scene of the accident to scoop up Rod – plus his now somewhat bent bike – and ship both to Royston.
We have since heard from Rod and are happy to report he is ok, apart from a cracked helmet and some painful bruising.
A big thanks to Sandra, our rock solid, ever selfless, true friend. (We haven’t yet told her she missed out on an impromptu beef feast served up free of charge by Landlord Barry at the Blind Fiddler.) We owe her a lunch!
The first Thursday of 2020 saw us speculating on the year ahead while gathering in the Fleur car park. Would Deborah finally buy some mudguards? Would Andrew continue banging on about Schwalbe Marathons? And who would be next in line for a new hip or knee? The year turns; life’s mysteries abound.
Meanwhile, we were off to explore the lanes of north Essex, Andrew leading the way, closely followed by Deborah, Sandra, Lawrence, Charles, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Simon and Brian.
We headed for Thaxted via Radwinter and Great Sampford. Alas, along the way Brian pulled up with punctures in both wheels. Strewth, what a start to the year! Reassuring the peloton they would catch up, Brian and Rod waved the others on and set about repairs. Things were soon fixed and we all caught up again over coffee and cake at Parrishes in Thaxted.
The return leg – via Cutlers Green and Debden Green – passed uneventfully and we tumbled back into the warm embrace of the Fleur where Landlord Chris served up another superb two course lunch
A beautiful Monday morning saw a dozen Windmillers gathering at The Green Man, Thriplow for the final ride of the year. Our gang comprised Andrew, Lindsey, Maurice, Graham, Ken, Rod, Lawrence, Sandra, Simon, Charles and two Brians.
Brummie Brian led the way out through Fowlmere, Chrishall Grange, Duxford, Whittlesford, Harston and on to Haslingfield, where some muttering was heard from the back of the peloton as we headed, once again, for Chapel Hill. Cresting the hill – not the longest but certainly one of the steepest around these parts – we admired the view as we freewheeled down the other side into Barrington. From there on it was easy going, returning to Thriplow via Shepreth, where the slowcoaches at the back got held up at the level crossing.
Reunited again at The Green Man, we were delighted to see Vernon joining us for lunch.
Here’s looking forward to many more rides together in 2020.
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.
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.
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.
Arriving back at the Fleur, we were delighted to be joined by Maurice, Nigel and Ken – and Deborah kindly bought us all a beer.
“Guaranteed mud-free or your money back” was Brummie Brian’s sales pitch for Thursday’s ride; a rash promise considering it had been raining steadily for two days.
Ten Windmillers – a goodly turnout considering the weather – met up at Cara Coffee in Great Shelford. Joining Brian were Deborah, Roger, Charles, Rod, Howard, Victor, Tom, Yorkshire Brian – and Lawrence, this week’s Birthday Boy, resplendent in a new all-weather top; a present from a doting daughter.
Setting out from Shelford we headed for Hauxton, crossed Trumpington Meadows to Grantchester and on to Coton, where we took the cycleway into Cambridge. Pausing for photographs on Garret Hostel Bridge, Charles yelled encouragement to the tourist punts passing on the river below. Poor souls, they looked chilled to the bone. Why go punting in winter, anyway? Beats me.
Weaving through the town centre, we followed Brian to Jesus Green and thence along the River Cam towpath through Chesterton to Milton, where we pulled in for coffee at Grounds Café.
It was in Milton Country Park that the first mud-related mutterings were heard from the peloton. “It’s not mud, it’s moisture,” yelled Brian over his shoulder. But we were soon back on the road and, mutiny averted, we headed for Landbeach and then on to Waterbeach – where we rejoined the riverside for the return leg to Cambridge.
Some were heard to liken the towpath to a mud bath. “The drainage is a little patchy,” conceded Brian, staying well ahead of the pack and not daring to look back.
Nearing Chesterton, Victor took a tumble, a victim of the wooden rails along the towpath that have claimed Martin and Vernon on previous outings. Glad to say, the involuntary dismount was momentary, indeed, executed in some style and – in a trice – Victor was back in the saddle, unscathed, nay unmudded.
Crossing town again, we joined the cycleway running along the guided bus track, the home straight back to Great Shelford, where we were delighted to find Ken, Martin and Maurice waiting for us at The Square and Compasses. We enjoyed a good lunch and Lawrence, top chap, bought the beers. Happy Birthday, Lawrence!
Rarely does poor weather force cancellation of a Thursday outing. But sometimes it does, triggering our well rehearsed contingency plan. We call it “Let’s have a bloody good lunch.”
So it was that Martin put away his Blackwater Estuary map for another day and we opted instead for a short trip to our favourite local, The Fleur de Lys.
Alas, Landlords Chris and Ellie had been forced to close for the day as the water main supplying Widdington had failed. Even the road into the village was closed while contractors dug it up to repair the pipe.
But all was not lost; a quick call to Chris and he offered to open up specially for us. We even managed to sweet talk our way past the contractors and the Road Closed signs.
Ric, Geoff, Andrew and Graham, determined to clock up at least a few miles in the saddle, cycled to Widdington while the rest of us – Lawrence, SimonT, SimonO, Maurice, Ken, Howard, Martin and Brian – took the easy option and drove there.
Chris and Ellie did us proud by improvising an excellent lunch of chips and sandwiches. God knows how they did the washing up, maybe they used beer. Many, many thanks to them both.