Thursday morning saw the Windmillers gathering at one of their favourite watering holes, The Golden Fleece in Braughing. With some arriving on two wheels, others on four, soon there were a dozen cyclists milling around the car park, perusing menus, ordering lunches, applying suntan lotion and generally getting ready for the ride ahead.
And then we were off – Maurice leading the first group, Martin the second – heading for Puckeridge and thence Standon where, ignoring the Road Closed signs and taking the security guards by surprise, we skirted the Standon Calling festival venue. With the music kicking off tomorrow the organisers were busy putting the finishing touches to the site ahead of an expected 15,000 visitors and a line-up including Madness and the Sugar Babes.
The other highlight of our outing was the delightful 5 mile riverside ride along the towpath between Stanstead Abbotts and Hertford – which included our midway stop for coffee and cake at the excellent Ware Café.
Refreshed, we made short work of the return leg to Braughing, looking forward to a beer – courtesy of Ric, this week’s birthday boy – and a fine lunch at the Fleece.
For the record the turnout was: Brian, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon and Tom – and we clocked up just over 33 miles.
Thanks as ever to Maurice for planning the outing, to Martin for the many photographs, more of which you will find here in the club album, and to Ric for the beers. Happy birthday, old timer!
With so many of our pals away on holiday, Thursday’s peloton was a relatively small affair of just six Windmillers: Brian, Geoff, Howard, Ken, Maurice and Sandra.
Setting off from The Henny Swan – that’s in Henny Street, near Sudbury – it was only a few miles before we left the road to follow the old Stour Valley Line. Originally connecting the London to Cambridge and London to Colchester lines, the railway ran from Brian’s village of Shelford, South Cambs, to Marks Tey in Essex. Alas it closed in 1967, but its legacy is an excellent off road cycleway.
Leaving the trackway at Melford Country Park, we took to the roads again and headed east via Great Waldingfield to Kersey where, rather than visit the village, we carried on half a mile and pulled in at Kersey Mill for refreshment.
Back on the bikes we made the return leg via Stoke-by-Nayland, Bures and Lamarsh, arriving back at the Henny Swan for a slap up lunch in the garden.
To cap it all, Sandra – with her big birthday only days away – bought us all a beer. Cheers, Sandra, and many happy returns.
Thanks, Maurice, for planning and leading the way on such a delightful, traffic-free route.
It was one of those outings when we didn’t quite all manage to meet up. This week’s loose canon was Rod who, arriving late at the start, quite reasonably assumed the best way to intercept the peloton would be to set off in the opposite direction and catch us coming t’other way. Alas, we were not privy to Rod’s cunning plan.
So there we were, sipping coffee at Café 33, next door to HMP Highpoint, when there was a fleeting glimpse of a yellow and black-clad cyclist speeding past, but heading east.
“Was that, Rod?” asked Maurice.
“Can’t be – he’s going the wrong way,” replied Brian.
Back at West Wratting and checking our phones over a beer, we realised it had indeed been Rod we saw earlier. He did eventually return to the pub only to find most of us had had our lunch and gone home. And the poor guy also missed out on a free beer, courtesy of Geoff, this week’s birthday boy.
That aside, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Ric, Victor – and even Rod – enjoyed a splendid, 30-odd mile outing in delightful Suffolk countryside.
And Rod did at least get back to West Wratting in time for a drink with Graham, who had dawdled over his beer, and Ken, who had driven over for a late lunch.
Thanks, as ever, to Maurice, for planning everything – and to Geoff for the beer.
PS We are always on the lookout for windmills, interesting old churches and the like. But did you know there was an ancient cattle pound right under our noses in West Wratting? Me neither. Ric and I stumbled upon it while riding back from Thursday’s outing. It’s not much to look at – and I can’t find anything about it on the web – but in the absence of a windmill it will have to do as this week’s curiosity piece.
This was always the highlight of the Windmill Club year but, thanks to the pandemic, we hadn’t ridden into London since April 2019. So it was with eager anticipation that we met up once again at the White Water Centre, Waltham Abbey, to cycle down the Lee Valley and reacquaint ourselves with the Thames riverside.
Ten Windmillers – Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Howard, Jeremy, Maurice, Rod, Roger and Simon – set off down the towpath on a sunny Thursday morning, passing under the M25, heading south towards Enfield and Tottenham. As ever, there was plenty to see along the riverside – horses, herons and houseboats – while mindful of the need to duck under bridges, rattle over cobbles and generally keep an eye out for dogs, mooring spikes and oncoming cyclists.
After some 15 miles we left the towpath, Maurice leading the way, on a convoluted but traffic-free route to Royal Docks where we pulled in for coffee and cake at Caffé Fratelli.
From there we took the Emirates Skyline cable car to Greenwich. It’s a pity the future of this spectacular crossing – lofting us high over the river and affording fabulous views of the London skyline – is in doubt, as earlier this year Emirates announced they would not be renewing their sponsorship and would also close the adjacent Aviation Experience. Let’s hope Transport for London finds another sponsor soon.
Alighting on the south side, we followed the cycleway around the Greenwich peninsula to the Old Royal Naval College – pausing for the usual photograph with Nelson – and the Cutty Sark.
Then it was along the south bank via Deptford and Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge. It was here that we tangled with the only heavy traffic of the day but, forming a sizeable, if somewhat ragged peloton, we kept the taxis and trucks at bay until, reaching the north bank we turned eastwards into St Katherine Docks. It was time for lunch – at The Dickens Inn.
Revived by beer and pub nosh, we set off and wound our way through the historic lanes of Wapping and Shadwell to Limehouse Basin. From here we were waterside all the way back, along the Regent’s Canal, Hertford Union Canal and the final 12 miles back up the Lee Valley.
Arriving back at Waltham Abbey, it was with some surprise that we found Deborah and Rod were missing. How on earth can you get lost on the towpath? It turned out they had somehow diverted into a large industrial estate where they were not only accosted, but also roundly abused by an irate security guard. Glad to say, they eventually found their way back to endure some good-natured ribbing from the rest of us.
What a fantastic day! A huge thanks to Maurice for planning everything and leading the way.
Another Thursday – and the Windmillers had many reasons to be cheerful. Not only was it Ken’s birthday and he’d be buying us all coffee and cake, but it was also Graham’s birthday and he’d be buying the beers.
News had clearly got around as Keith chose this very day to return from a long medically enforced absence. And to cap it all, today was the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holiday, so the roads were likely to be quiet. We were counting our blessings!
So there was a general feeling of bonhomie in the air as twelve Windmillers set off from the Fleece. We should have been fourteen but Hazel and Graham had messaged to say they were still breakfasting in Puckeridge and would catch us up. Thursday outings are all about food.
This is fast becoming one of our favourite refreshment stops; not only for good coffee and fabulous cake – but also for frocks! Yes, indeed. Rach came away carrying a rather tastefully wrapped package which Maurice, ever the gent, offered to transport back to Braughing in his bike bag.
Rach subsequently sent us some pics of her purchase.
So, hitherto known for our appreciation of local eateries and alehouses, Windmill Club outings now also provide shopping opportunities. Maybe next week we’ll call in at Bluewater and, who knows, if Maurice gets a cargo bike1 we’ll do Ikea.
Oh, and we did a bit of cycling too, clocking up some 30 miles and with the peloton comprising: Alan, Ann, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Jeremy, Keith, Ken, Maurice, Rach, Roger, Sandra and Tom.
Our thanks go to Maurice, for yet another wonderful outing, and to Ken and Graham for the birthday treats; many happy returns both.
“Can you sleep in it?” enquired Deborah pointing to Sandra’s big shiny van, “and what’s in there anyway?” Whereupon Sandra, sliding back the door, pulled out an alpaca, albeit a large cuddly one. Talk about Aladdin’s cave.
Then there’s Ann and Martin who, for reasons best known to themselves, gave an impromptu rendition of “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do” during lunch. They only knew the chorus so we have helpfully included the complete lyrics below in the hope that they will give us the full version soon. The Windmillers are indeed an eccentric, some would say slightly mad, bunch.
So it was that thirteen Windmillers gathered at the Golden Fleece for a 30 mile jaunt around the lanes of East Herts; Ann, Brian, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Martin, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Victor raring to go on a figure of eight route devised by Maurice. And what a route it was, affording magnificent views across the Hertfordshire countryside, the roadsides abounding in May blossom. Views naturally only come with hill climbs, of which there were a fair few, so it was with some relief that we pulled up for a breather and some refreshment at the Brewery Tea Rooms in Walkern.
Set in a beautiful house, a former brewery to be precise, it serves excellent coffee and fabulous cakes, and we were very warmly received by the ladies who run the place. Why have we never been here before? We must return in the near future.
Back on the bikes we puffed our way around the remaining 18 miles, pausing occasionally for the pedallers to catch up with the electrically assisted. Cresting the final hill between Puckeridge and Braughing, we returned to the Golden Fleece looking forward to a beer.
Maurice, Ken and Andrew were there to greet us and, as ever, our hosts Pete and Jess served up an excellent lunch.
Thanks go to Maurice for devising yet another superb route, also Graham, Martin and Simon for the many photographs which are all available in the club photo album.
“Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” is a popular song written in 1892 by British songwriter Harry Dacre. It is said to have been inspired by Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, one of the many mistresses of King Edward VII.
There is a flower within my heart, Daisy, Daisy! Planted one day by a glancing dart, Planted by Daisy Bell! Whether she loves me or loves me not, Sometimes it’s hard to tell; Yet I am longing to share the lot Of beautiful Daisy Bell!
Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer, do! I’m half crazy, All for the love of you! It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage, But you’ll look sweet on the seat Of a bicycle built for two!
We will go “tandem” as man and wife, Daisy, Daisy! “Ped’ling” away down the road of life, I and my Daisy Bell! When the road’s dark we can both despise P’liceman and “lamps” as well; There are “bright lights” in the dazzling eyes Of beautiful Daisy Bell! (Chorus)
I will stand by you in “wheel” or woe, Daisy, Daisy! You’ll be the bell(e) which I’ll ring you know! Sweet little Daisy Bell! You’ll take the “lead” in each “trip” we take, Then if I don’t do well; I will permit you to use the brake, My beautiful Daisy Bell! (Chorus)
Fenland can be a disorienting place – with its 360° horizon, black earth, wide waterways and immense skies – but the National Cycle Network’s Route 11 is there to guide you from Cambridge to Ely on traffic free lanes and byways. So it was that eleven hardy Windmillers set off for Ely, a return trip of 40 miles or so, on a cold Thursday in April.
There was plenty to see along the way. Not only do the fens contain around half the grade 1 agricultural land in England but they are also home to herds of deer and rare breeds of cattle and ponies, while the numerous locks, sluices, pumps and dykes keep the waters of the Great Ouse and the North Sea at bay.
Along the way we pulled in for refreshment at Wicken Fen, the National Trust reserve where herds of free roaming konik ponies and highland cattle help create new habitats for wildlife. Their grazing keeps the landscape open and encourages the growth of wetland and grassland plants.
It was here that Charles, Chris, Geoff and Ken peeled off and headed for home, leaving Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Howard, Martin, Sandra and Simon to continue on towards Ely.
We enjoyed a splendid lunch at Peacocks Tearoom and Howard, this week’s birthday boy, bought the drinks.
It was as we were putting our helmets on for the return trip that Deborah got goosed – quite literally – by a goose that crept up from behind and pecked her on the bum, to much hilarity all round.
The return leg was thankfully somewhat warmer and Martin, Sandra, Brian and Howard pulled up for yet more refreshment at Anglesey Abbey, while Andrew, Deborah and Simon headed on back to Cambridge.
Thanks are due to Andrew for planning the outing and Howard, top chap, for buying the drinks.
Best wishes also to Simon as he is taking his Spanish GCSE exam later this week; good luck!
Living up to our club name, we rarely pass a windmill without stopping for a photograph – and sometimes even a visit. We have, indeed, been known to stop and admire one of those rare delights, a tidal mill. But never to my knowledge had we visited a watermill . . . until today.
So it was that some fifteen Windmillers stopped off at Alderford Watermill in Sible Hedingham where Martin had arranged for us to have a guided tour.
We were shown around by Owen, one of the volunteers who maintains and keeps alive this wonderful piece of 18th century engineering. Owen explained how parts of the present mill date from around 1720 when it would have been operated by a miller and one assistant producing coarse wholemeal flour. Over the years new power sources – steam, then oil, and finally electricity – were adopted to boost output and reduce the dependency upon river flow.
The mill finally stopped turning in 1957 and from then on the building was used for grain storage. Now owned by Essex County Council it is lovingly maintained (and continually restored!) by Owen and his fellow volunteers, the Friends of Alderford Mill.
Earlier at the White Horse, Ridgewell, fourteen Windmillers had gathered for our regular Thursday ride. We should have been fifteen but Simon was missing. We are used to losing him during, but not before, a ride and a quick phone call established that the poor chap had mixed up the meeting point with the ride destination. Yes, he was at The Blue Egg. We hung around until Simon eventually, and somewhat sheepishly, rolled into the car park. Now we were fifteen – and all off to, yes, The Blue Egg.
As ever, Maurice had chosen a wonderful route; 32 miles on quiet lanes and in perfect spring weather.
For the record the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Sandra and Simon.
Thanks are due to: Maurice and Andrew for planning the day; birthday boy Charles for buying the beers; Martin for arranging the mill tour; and Owen for his excellent guided tour of the mill.
Overnight snow showers put paid to Maurice’s planned outing but, come lunchtime, the snow had melted away, prompting Brian to issue an open invitation. Would anyone be interested in joining him for a lunchtime ride around Cambridge? No fewer than eight Windmillers turned up at his place in Shelford and, after a quick coffee, we set off for a tour of the town.
Brian led the way along the DNA cycleway to Cambridge Station and on over the Tony Carter Cycle Bridge. Named after a councillor of the day and opened in 1989, this was listed for a time in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest covered cycle bridge, lofting riders high over the railway. The only downside is its greenhouse-like design; it does get stiflingly hot in summer.
Then it was on to the Chisholm Trail, the newly opened £21 million cycling route across Cambridge, the highlight of which is a gleaming new, 40 meter long bridge spanning the river.
Next we paused for a photograph by the swift tower on Logan’s Meadow. Combining conservation and public art, it’s meant to look like a pixelated African sunset (Cambridge, eh?) and, on closer inspection you can see it contains dozens of swift and bat nesting boxes.
Crossing Jesus Green, we wound our way through the town centre, past Trinity College and the tourist tat shops, before re-crossing the river and heading for Newnham and thence Grantchester, the murder capital of East Anglia; if you watch the eponymous BBC drama series you’ll know what I mean.
It was in Grantchester that we pulled in at The Blue Ball for lunch, a couple of beers and, if Deborah had had her way, a traditional pub game. Her curiosity had been piqued by the large ring slung from a rope attached to the ceiling and, but for the timely intervention of the landlady, she would have swung it with gusto over the heads of anxious diners. However, Ringing the Bull is best played in an empty bar and, thankfully, we will never know whether the club insurance would have paid out for third party pub injuries.
Back on the bikes, it was a short return leg – via Hauxton – to Shelford.
For the record Brian, Deborah, Graham, Jeremy, Martin, Ric, Sandra, Victor clocked up a respectable 17 miles.
It was a St Patrick’s Day outing so, by rights, Brian our resident Irishman should have been wearing green and buying the Guinness. Alas, he forgot to wear green – and he kept pretty quiet about the Guinness. Nevertheless, we were cheered by the prospect of free beer at lunchtime, courtesy of Roger, this week’s birthday boy.
It was a glorious spring morning with daffodils and blossom much in evidence as thirteen Windmillers set out from Therfield for a 30 mile tour of NE Herts. The gang comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Ken, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Roger, Sandra and Tom. Apologies / cast iron excuses had been tendered by Simon (covid), Martin (skiing) and Rod (Australia).
Mid-way around, we pulled in at Braughing where Jess opened up the Fleece specially for us and served coffee and cake in the garden.
Back on the bikes we took the return leg at quite a lick, spurred on by the prospect of free beer. We were delighted to find Suzanne waiting for us at the pub; having cycled from Abington she was just as thirsty as the rest of us. But thirstiest of all were Graham and Victor who had also cycled from home, then done the 30 mile circuit and had yet to make the return journey. Well done, all
Thanks are due to Maurice and Andrew for getting everyone organised, plus, of course, Roger: thanks and happy birthday!
It’s a tricky time of year for the fashion conscious Windmiller. What’s one to wear on these between-the-seasons outings? With the exception of Victor, most agree it’s a little early for shorts and opt to retain winter leggings and layers. But then there’s Simon who, disdainful of cyclewear, nails it with white cotton twill shirt, cashmere cardigan and flannel trousers, making the rest of us look positively dowdy.
So it was that Thursday morning saw the Windmillers heading out from the Pig & Abbot in various states of attire. Fuelled up on landlady Pat’s coffee and biscuits, Maurice, Charles, Howard Ric and Victor set off at a cracking pace, followed some five minutes later by Brian, Alan, Deborah, Geoff, Sandra and Simon.
Seventeen miles in, we were eager to top up our caffeine and sugar levels and pulled in for coffee and cake at Waresley.
Back on the bikes, we headed for Great Gransden before turning south for the the return leg to Abington Pigotts.
Arriving at the Pig & Abbot, we were delighted to be joined by Lawrence. Birthday boy, Maurice bought the beers and we settled down to enjoy Pat’s excellent pies and the beer is excellent, especially when Maurice is buying.
Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for the route – and the beer. Also Charles and Simon for the photographs; there’s many more here in the club album.
Glad to say, absolutely nothing untoward happened on this week’s Thursday outing; no thrills, spills, punctures, nor indeed, helpings of haggis – it was just a very pleasant 32 mile ride in the company of Andrew, Brian, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Maurice, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Tom and Victor; some twelve Windmillers in all.
Starting and finishing at White Horse Inn, Ridgewell, Maurice had led the way, via Stoke by Clare and Hundon, to Stradishall, before turning eastwards to Hawkedon and on to Rede, where we pulled in for refreshment at The Plough.
Then it was on southwards to Glemsford and Cavendish from where we took a delightfully quiet – and new to us – minor road bypassing Clare, before returning to Ridgewell for lunch. All in all, a grand day out!
Thanks, as ever to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising everything; also to Charles for the many photos – too many to include here – but check them out in the club album.
PS Maurice reports our charity collection so far this year stands at £633; a flying start to 2022. Well done, all!
Thursday’s ride was a memorable one for Hazel as, just a few miles short of the finish she took a tumble, sustaining some painful cuts and bruises, not to mention torn cyclewear and a damaged bike.
The mishap, at a tight bend on a quiet road, was most likely due to diesel spillage, a well documented hazard for cyclists and motorcyclists alike, and one we have experienced before; indeed, some of you may remember Chris suffered similarly, and at virtually the same spot, some three years ago.
We are glad to hear Hazel, while still feeling somewhat the worse for wear, is on the mend and we look forward to her joining us again soon.
Confounding the forecast of fine weather, it was a fine drizzle that saw us heading out earlier from Abington Pigotts, a drizzle that stayed with us all the way to our refreshment stop at Waresley. Drying out over coffee and cake, some swapped stories of Burns Night suppers while others lamented they had never even tried haggis. Well today was their big chance.
The return leg was thankfully dry and sunny. Back at the Pig & Abbot we enjoyed a restorative pint before, summoned to our table, landlady Pat presented a magnificent haggis, prompting Andrew, our resident Scot, to rise and launch into – not just one – but all eight verses of Rabbie Burns’ Address to a Haggis. Mid-way through, and proclaiming, “An cut you up . . . trenching your gushing entrails bright” he waved a knife alarmingly close to Ken’s nose before slicing the beast open to rapturous applause, while across the pub vegans cowered into their nut roasts.
For the record, Thursday’s turnout was thirteen Windmillers, namely: Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Maurice, Rod and Sandra
A special thanks to Maurice for scooping up Hazel and her bike after the accident and ferrying both home.
Address to a Haggis, by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm :
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!
A frosty start to Thursday morning prompted Andrew – very wisely – to delay the start of our outing, so it was nigh on 10 o’clock before the Windmillers were seen heading out from the Fox & Duck for a tour of the hills to the south and east of Therfield.
The highlight of our ride was the refreshment stop at Heath Farm, where Maurice and Lyn had laid on coffee and hot cross buns. Plus, of course, it’s always interesting touring the barns to view Maurice’s collection of classic cars and engineering projects – the latest of which is a motorbike engine conversion. Owning not one, but two 1957 Douglas Dragonflies, he has replaced one of the original 350cc flat twins with a 400cc, four cylinder Honda engine. The man never sleeps! Indeed, word having got around about this latest job, the editor of Classic Bike Magazine will be visiting tomorrow to interview Maurice and take pictures of the Dragonflies.
The petrolheads among us were also very taken with the Aston Martin DB5 Vantage engine slung in chains from the roof beams. All fuelled up and ready to roar, it would have been good to see it start up. However, lacking a silencer, we feared for our eardrums.
Thanking Lyn for the hospitality, we resumed our ride, heading for Nuthampstead – where we tipped our hats to John Tarrington – and thence Buntingford, before turning northwards for the return leg to Therfield.
At 24 miles, our route was somewhat shorter than usual but, given the late start, low temperatures and hilly terrain, not to mention the promise of free beer courtesy of birthday boy Brian, we were looking forward to returning to the – hopefully warm – embrace of the Fox & Duck. Alas, the heating had failed and the place was decidedly chilly, so chilly indeed that we asked to move tables; not that that made much difference.
But our lunch was good and we followed up with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday for Brian.
For the record, our turnout of eleven Windmillers comprised: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jeremy, Maurice, Rod, Sandra and Victor – plus Ken and Ann who had cycled out from Ickleton to join us for lunch.
Warm thanks are due to Maurice and Lyn for their hospitality at Heath Farm – the coffee and hot cross buns went down a treat. Also to Andrew for getting us all organised, as well as Howard for the photograph in the pub.
Two years on from our last visit, it was high time for a return to Ridgewell and The White Horse where, opening up early, the landlord welcomed us with coffee and took our orders for lunch.
So it was that eleven Windmillers set off from the pub, in some trepidation it must be said, given the mercury was barely above freezing and, to heighten our concern, within half a mile we encountered Graham coming the other way. Cycling out to join us, had been delayed by the icy roads. Oo-er, let’s take it steady, was the general consensus.
That said, it was one of those sparkling, blue sky mornings and, wrapped up against the cold, it felt good to be alive, at least until the next patch of ice.
Eighteen miles in, and pulling up at The Blue Egg for refreshments, there was by now sufficient warmth in the sun for us to enjoy our coffee al fresco.
The return leg was just as lovely – and thankfully uneventful – as all riders returned intact and looking forward to a good lunch.
Back at the pub, we were delighted to be joined by Ken who, hearing rumours of free beer, had leapt in his car and driven across county lines to join us.
It was indeed Martin’s birthday and, toasting his health, we gave a stirring rendition of Happy Birthday before settling down to an excellent lunch. All agreed, the White Horse food was really very good and, at £11.95 for two courses, remarkable value to boot.
For the record, our team roster was Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Martin, Maurice, Roger, Sandra and Victor; plus Ken in civvies.
Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising another lovely outing – and to the landlord of The White Horse for his hospitality; we shall return soon.
Thanks also Charles, Deborah, Graham, Martin and Victor for the many photographs; too many to include here but you can check them out in the club album.
So it was that some fifteen Windmillers were seen milling about the car park of the Cock Inn at Henham, Andrew doing his best to bring a semblance of order and making a vain attempt to group us into three equal teams. But Maurice was already off and heading for Debden Green, a gaggle of Windmillers in his wake. It’s as good a way as any to start a ride.
It wasn’t such a good start, however, for Jenni who, within five minutes, had pulled up with a puncture. Standing aside, she let Andrew and Mike do their manly thing of upending the bike to wrestle with wheels, levers, tubes and pumps and effect a repair. Jenni very sensibly left them to it and, some 20 minutes later, was back on the road chasing to catch up with Maurice.
We were on a 29 mile, figure of eight route taking in Thaxted, Finchingfield, Waltham’s Cross, the Bardfields and Broxted – and a lovely, scenic route it was too. Finchingfield being the half-way point, we pulled in for refreshments at Winners Tea Rooms, where Martin told the proprietor she had won the Windmillers’ Café of the Year Award. She waited expectantly, thinking he might pull out a trophy, maybe a framed certificate or suchlike.
“Er, that’s it, we thought we’d just let you know,” he explained.
“Righto, thanks,” she said, nonplussed, and returned to the kitchen.
Back at the pub, we enjoyed a well earned pint and a good lunch while Maurice listed the various charities the club was supporting this year. Totalling just over £7000, the monies were distributed to:
Macmillan Nurses, at the behest of the model boat donor, £1,000
Arthur Rank Hospice, in memory of Vernon, at the behest of Moira, £500
Great Chishill Windmill, where it all started some 10 years ago, £250
Breast Cancer / Moon Walk, sponsoring Jess at the Golden Fleece, £200
Addenbrookes Charitable Trust, at the behest of Lawrence and Simon, £1,000
Marie Curie Cancer, in memory of Rose, Victor’s wife, £500
East Anglian Children’s Hospice, £1,000
The Eve Appeal for gynaecological cancer research, £1,000
Samaritans, at the behest of Deborah, £500
Pets as Therapy, at the behest of Charles, £250
Breast Cancer UK, at the behest of Penny Woodhead, £750
For the record the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jenni, Jeremy, Martin, Maurice, Mike, Rod, Roger, Sandra and Simon.
Our thanks, as ever, are due to Maurice and Andrew, for planning and organising everything.
At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month – we will remember them. As did the Windmillers on their Thursday outing, pulling over in a quiet place to honour the service men and women who gave their lives – and to reflect on the freedoms we take for granted today.
Having set off some two hours earlier from The Chestnut Tree at West Wratting, we were mid-way round a 32 mile circuit, looping south and west of Haverhill as far as Cornish Hall End before turning north for the return leg via Baythorne End.
It was here that we pulled in for coffee and cake at Tarka’s Café, all except Deborah who, having spotted the adjacent antiques and retro-tat emporium, sniffed a shopping opportunity. A vintage, if not visibly distressed, iron table took her fancy and, had friends not summoned her back to the café for refreshment, she would have bought the thing and lashed it to her bike.
Crisis averted and caffeine levels restored, we remounted and made light work of the return leg to West Wratting, where back at the pub, we were delighted to see Ken and Martin join us for lunch.
For the record, the turnout was fourteen Windmillers: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Maurice, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Suzanne.
Our thanks go to Maurice for planning yet another delightful route – and to Andrew, of course, for getting everyone organised.
Recent events have shown just how dependent we are on HGV drivers, those unsung heroes who, quite literally, keep the wheels of our world turning. So we were duly impressed to learn – over coffee at the Blue Egg on Thursday – that Sandra will shortly be undergoing HGV driver training herself. Is there no end to this woman’s talents?
On a selfish note, we reckon this means we needn’t worry about our Christmas presents being stuck in containers at Felixstowe. A word to Sandra and things should get moving.
Thirteen Windmillers, a baker’s dozen, had set off from Henham for a 32 mile jaunt taking in Thaxted and Great Bardfield, where we pulled in at the aforementioned Blue Egg for refreshments.
Sipping coffee and munching cake, we caught up on news; everything from Sandra’s new found vocation to Simon’s exploits as a chimney sweep and Graham’s forthcoming big family wedding.
Back on the bikes we made short work of the return leg via Stebbing and Broxted to the Cock Inn, Henham, where lunch was waiting, not to mention a very welcome beer.
For the record the turnout was: Andrew, Brian, Charles, Graham, Howard, Jeremy, Lawrence, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Victor. Do shout if I’ve missed anyone.
Thanks as ever to Andrew for organising everything.
Finally, we send our very best wishes to Simon Oughton and Lawrence Wragg ahead of their long stays in Addenbrookes. We know they will be in good hands and we look forward to seeing them again soon, no doubt with tales to tell (but, please, no pictures!)
Did he get dressed in the dark? Does Fiona know he’s out? Will the polo club turn him away? Such were the questions troubling the Windmillers on seeing Charles – normally the acme of sartorial elegance – turn up in odd socks.
That aside, it was another good turnout; 18 riders, some arriving on two wheels, others on four, as we gathered in the car park of the Golden Fleece, Landlady Jess taking our orders for lunch.
Maurice led the way northwards out of Braughing, momentarily confusing those of us whose GPX devices advised heading south. No matter, within half a mile both Maurice and satnavs were in agreement as we headed for the Pelhams and Rickling.
It was a longish first stage, Maurice having planned our refreshment stop at the Silver Leys Polo Club some 20 miles distant. The polo season was long over – but there was a dressage competition underway in the arena. Simon, ever keen to get in on the action, got a little too close and was asked to step back lest he spook the horses. He has a similar effect on car drivers.
Meanwhile, the rest of us were enjoying coffee and some very fine cake, made specially in anticipation of our visit by the lovely lady who runs the clubhouse. She regaled us with stories of horrendous polo injuries, her own included. It’s not just falls, they can suffer some nasty facial injuries when struck by the ball. Apparently it is impractical to wear cricket-style helmets and face guards as they raise the risk of a broken neck when you fall. This summer alone, the air ambulance has paid the club two visits. And they say cycling is dangerous.
Back on the bikes, we headed for Standon and Puckeridge before returning to Fleece where Pete and Jess served up another excellent lunch. This week’s birthday boy was Chris, who duly bought us all a beer.
For the record, this week’s team roster was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff,Graham, John, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon, Suzanne and Victor.
Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for planning the route and arranging things at the polo club, Andrew for getting everyone organised, Chris for the beers, and Martin, Graham and Simon for the photographs (too many to include here but they’re all in the Windmill Club Photo Album).
Can it really be two years since our last visit to Therfield? It was good to be back, as the Windmillers, some arriving on two wheels, others on four, gathered in the car park of The Fox & Duck on a fine September morning. And it was another good turnout, some seventeen riders in all, namely: Alan, Brian, Charles, Chris, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Jeremy, Ken, Lawrence, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Rod, Simon and Victor.
We made our usual Keystone Cops-like attempt at forming three teams of similar size, the teams riding five minutes apart so as to (a) avoid unduly impacting the flow of traffic around Hertfordshire, and (b) avoid descending, locust like, on any tea room unfortunate enough to attract our attention.
Did it work? Well, kinda. While we did indeed avoid overwhelming any one hospitality venue by cleverly distributing ourselves between two of them, Church Farm, Ardeley, and the Westmill Tea Room, by the time we had arrived back in Therfield for lunch, two of the teams had merged into a disorderly rabble strung out over half a mile or so of minor road.
That said, we all enjoyed a splendid morning’s ride, working up an appetite for an equally splendid lunch. Arriving at the pub, we were delighted to be joined by Suzanne, all the more so as – this being her birthday – she was very generously buying the beers.
Thanks are due to Maurice for planning the route – and we wish Suzanne a very happy and hearty birthday.