Categories
Braughing Henham

Idling at Elsenham

Last Train to Clarksville . . . Midnight Train to Georgia . . . Chattanooga Choo-Choo . . . but alas, nobody sings about Elsenham and waiting for the barriers to open, even though there’s time aplenty, 15 minutes in our case, to draft a ditty.

So there we were exchanging banter with the crossing keeper, our party of ten Windmillers having just set out from The Cock at Henham, and barely 2 miles into a 30 mile tour of North Essex / North Herts. We had come close to being just nine Windmillers, Rod having forgotten his helmet and about to head home, when Landlady Mel, bless her, appeared with a spare one she keeps on the premises. Now that’s what we call a cycling friendly pub.

Brief Encounter

Some three trains later, the keeper opened the crossing and we were underway once more, heading for Ugley Green and all points west.

Maurice had promised us a flat ride but, e-bike convert that he is, maybe he no longer notices the hills. We certainly did and, as the morning wore on and the mercury headed upwards of 25C, our once-tight peloton became strung out over a mile or more. While some of us like it hot, others, most notably Simon, aren’t so keen and, by the time we pulled in for refreshment at Braughing, he was looking distinctly pink.

Simon wishing he’d brought his bathing costume

It was in Braughing that Maurice had arranged an out-of-hours visit to The Golden Fleece. Mid-way round and run by our good pals, Pete and Jess, where better to stop off and take on some much needed water, coffee and biscuits.

Cooling down at Braughing

Back on the bikes Maurice took the return leg at quite a lick, having promised Mel he would get us back in good time for lunch, so we were grateful when Henham and the The Cock finally hove into view. Sitting in the garden, we enjoyed a restorative pint while Mel’s team served up an excellent lunch.

Lunch at The Cock

For the record, our peloton comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Simon and Victor.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things, Jess and Peter for opening up The Fleece, and Mel for her hospitality (and helmet) at The Cock.

31 miles anticlockwise: Henham, Elsenham, Ugley Green, Little Hadham, Standon, Puckeridge, Braughing, Furneux Pelham, Stocking Pelham, Rickling, Henham

And finally, we wish our pal Lawrence, currently laid up in St George’s Hospital, a speedy recovery from his illness. We hope to see him back in the saddle soon.

Our very own St Lawrence; get well soon

Brian

Categories
Cambridgeshire West Wratting

Two take a tumble

At 390 feet above sea level, West Wratting can claim to be the second highest village in Cambridgeshire, beaten to the top spot only by Great Chishill, where Charles, sitting in his garden at a lofty 479 feet, can look down on everyone else in the county.

Gathering at The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting
Morning coffee

West Wratting’s other claim to fame is as the haunt of the mythical Shug Monkey. Cambridgeshire folklore has it that the creature – half dog, half monkey – haunts the road to Balsham. Nobody saw it, not even Hazel who, having enjoyed a pint of strong and possibly hallucinogenic rhubarb cider with her lunch, was the most likely of us to experience a vision.

At Graham’s recommendation, we were lunching at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting, a wonderful village pub, blessed with a particularly fine garden. Our hosts, Peter and Rachel, had welcomed us earlier that morning with coffee and we were now enjoying a fine lunch and some excellent beers.

Good choice of pub, Graham

It had been an eventful outing. Early on, Roger’s and Alan’s bikes somehow got entangled and they took a tumble in the road. Mercifully, they emerged relatively unscathed apart from the odd patch of road rash and bruising. Nothing as bad as the spectacular pile up on the opening day of the Tour de France.

Look carefully and you can just see Alan and Roger ahead, rolling in the road

We’d had a few mechanicals as well; a puncture for Victor and – more significantly – a seized bottom bracket for Howard. Victor effected his puncture repair quickly enough but Howard, unable to turn his pedals for the final mile, had to be pushed back to base by Ric.

Victor’s puncture repair
Ric pushes Howard home

We always make the time to pull over and admire the natural world. This time it was a silk tent in a hedgerow, the work of a small eggar moth caterpillar colony. Following emergence from their eggs, the caterpillars construct a tent consisting of layers of silk fibres.

Small eggar moth caterpillars on their silk tent

We pulled in for coffee at Café 33 near Stradishall. The place doesn’t look much – but the ladies make exceedingly good cakes; well worth stopping for when you next visit your relatives over the road at Highpoint Prison.

Café 33
Suzanne negotiates a roadblock

For the record, our riders were: Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Roger, Suzanne, Tom and Victor.

28 miles clockwise from West Wratting

Thanks, Maurice, for guiding us around another lovely route. Also Graham, Charles, Deborah and Hazel for the photographs. And Peter & Rachel for their hospitality at the Chestnut Tree; we shall return.

Brian

Categories
Essex

Poppies & Poo

Whenever we passed The Cock Inn at Henham, John Bagrie would go missing, which was a pretty sure sign that the landlord kept a good cellar. So it was high time we tried the place for lunch – and it didn’t disappoint. The food was good, and the beer, generously bought by Birthday Boy Geoff, was good too.

Ten Windmillers – Andrew, Brian, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Ric, Roger, Simon and Victor – had set out some three hours earlier from Henham bound for Broxted and all points east. Returning to the pub after an excellent ride, we were hungry, thirsty and – despite the dire weather forecast – thankfully dry.

Stopping midway at Finchingfield, we had enjoyed coffee and cake overlooking the green before returning via Thaxted, where we were delighted to see Ken and Suzanne waiting to join us for the final leg.

As ever, Maurice had devised a lovely route; the Essex lanes were traffic free and the roadsides seemingly ablaze with poppies.

And the poo? Well there was a pile of manure on the roadside in Stanbrook and Simon couldn’t resist the temptation to squat and pose for a photograph.

That’ll take two flushes, Simon

Thanks go to Maurice for the route, Andrew for logistics, Charles, Simon and Graham for photographs – and Geoff for the beer.

Brian

29 miles: Henham – Broxted – Thaxted – Great Bardfield – Finchingfield – Little Sampford – Thaxted – Cutlers Green – Henham
Categories
Braughing

Sunny Delight

Thirteen Windmillers, a veritable baker’s dozen, followed Maurice out of Braughing towards Puckeridge. Born and bred in these ‘ere parts, Maurice needs no map, knowing as he does every nook, cranny, lane and hedgerow, not to mention public house, within a 30 mile radius.

We were off on a 33 mile tour of North East Herts. Twas a lovely morning, and a goodly turnout to boot; following Maurice were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Nigel, Roger, Simon and Victor.

The highlight of this particular route is the delightful five mile section along the riverside, running from Hertford, through Ware and on to Stanstead Abbotts. And where better to pull in for refreshment than Ware Café, where we enjoyed coffee and cake in the garden.

An aerial shot taken by Graham
A ground level shot taken by Brian
And a flowery shot taken by Hazel

Setting off on the return leg, we headed for Hunsdon, Perry Green and thence Braughing where, pulling into the Golden Fleece, we were delighted to be joined by Suzanne who had pedalled all the way from Abington.

Our thanks as ever go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things; Simon who got stiffed with the rather large bill for refreshments at Ware; plus Charles, Graham and Hazel for the many photographs which you can find here in the club album.

33 miles anticlockwise
Categories
Cambridge

Destination Grantchester

Grantchester, according to the eponymous TV series, is the murder capital of East Anglia. Week in, week out, some poor sod gets bumped off, whereupon the evil doer is tracked down and unmasked by the local vicar-cum-sleuth. It’s Cluedo with clerics.

So it was on Thursday that we rounded up the usual suspects: gang leader Brian, followed by Alan, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger – and prime suspect Charles (aka Colonel Mustard, handy with a lead pipe, wrench, rope, revolver, dagger or candlestick).

Starting out from Trumpington, we headed for Cambridge and the fens. Guaranteed a hill-free ride, our regular e-bikers Rod, Charles and Geoff had opted to leave their e-machines at home and pedal the 32 miles unassisted.

Willingham Auctions

Mid-way, we stopped for coffee and cake at the Willingham Auctions Café, and it was here that we quizzed Deborah on how she came to feature in yesterday’s national newspapers pictured alongside the dashing Sir Keir Starmer. The photograph was taken in the 80s when they shared a student house in Leeds.

Deborah reminisces . . . happy days as a student in Leeds . . .
. . . with Keir Starmer in the foreground and Deb behind looking cool in shades

Setting off once more, we headed for Over before turning south and winding our way homewards through Longstanton, Oakington and Girton. Finally, skirting Cambridge to the west, we pitched up at the Blue Ball Inn, Grantchester and tucked into a well earned lunch.

32 miles anticlockwise from Trumpington
Categories
Braughing

Safe seats

It was polling day and the Windmillers were exercising their democratic right to roam North East Hertfordshire. Our safe seats were Maurice, Andrew, Suzanne, Deborah, Tom, Roger, Brian, Graham, Simon, Howard, Charles, Alan, Victor, Rod and Lawrence.

Maurice forms a majority

Maurice set the pace, leading a slim majority out of Braughing towards Puckeridge, followed five minutes later by Andrew’s coalition of Scots, Irish and independent hopefuls.

Andrew’s working coalition

The constituency of North East Hertfordshire has an electorate of some 76,000 – but thankfully only a small proportion of them were out driving; we enjoyed quiet roads, unhindered by traffic.

Stopping for refreshments at Church Farm, Ardeley, our two parties caught up and, resisting the urge to score cheap political points, we compared manifestos over coffee and cake.

Simon, Victor, Graham and Suzanne at Ardeley

Back on the bikes we headed for Haultwick (according to Roger it’s pronounced ‘Artic’) and Cromer, where we paused for the obligatory Windmillers-by-the-Windmill photograph. Then it was on to Sandon, Buntingford and Westmill before returning to Braughing.

Howard, Alan, Lawrence and Tom – wrapped up at the Golden Fleece

Arriving in the garden of the Golden Fleece, Peter and Jess gave us shelter from the elements and served up an excellent lunch, made all the more special by Andrew buying the beers. Happy Birthday, Andrew, and lang may yer lum reek!

How old, Andrew? Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey – don’t ask!

Our thanks go to the Whips’ Office – Maurice and Andrew. Also Charles and Simon for the photographs – and Peter & Jess for taking such good care of us at the Fleece.

28 miles anticlockwise
Eggstraordinary levels of rural crime around Buntingford

Brian (Returning Officer)

Categories
Braughing

Fashionably Late

Brian should know better than to just blindly follow Maurice’s GPX routes. He should know by now these provide general guidance as to direction rather than turn-by-turn instruction. Just because said route directs you off-road, through a wood, up a grassy bank, over several stiles and across a paddock full of frisky horses – doesn’t mean you should follow it unquestioningly. Alas, that is just what Brian did – as did all the other mugs who followed him.

“Where the hell are we?” “Just pass me the bike, please, Martin”
This way!
Andrew advises Roger on the best way to corral frisky horses

The upshot was that the eight poor devils following in Brian’s wake arrived back at the pub nearly an hour after Maurice and his seven wise men – causing some consternation as rumour had it Birthday Boy Rod would be buying the beers. We rolled up as Maurice’s group, having wisely stuck to the road, had finished their lunch and were contemplating a second pint.

Some seventeen Windmillers had set out several hours earlier from The Golden Fleece at Braughing for a thirty-odd mile circuit of East Herts and the Lee Valley. This being Maurice’s home turf, he had included some particularly lovely lanes and riverside paths, and highlights along the way included the view over the bird reserve at Amwell, the gazebos overlooking the River Lee at Ware, and a stopover in Ware itself for some excellent coffee and cake.

Maurice’s group at Amwell – closely followed by . . .
. . . Brian’s group at Amwell

Viewed across the river in the bright April sunshine, the gazebos, some dating back to the 18th century, were built by innkeepers and other high street traders as havens of peace and quiet away from the noise and bustle of the town. In the 1830s there were some 25 along the riverside but, by 1980, only ten remained.

The gazebos at Ware

Back at The Fleece, we raised a glass to Rod and sang him a boisterous Happy Birthday.

For the record, the turnout was: Rod, Maurice, Andrew, Lawrence, Mike, Howard, Graham, Alan, Ken, Charles, Simon, Roger, Deborah, Martin, Suzanne, Tom and Brian.

Nigel had hoped to join us but pulled out at the last minute citing a problem with his boat. Whether it was shipwreck, mutiny or a Suez Canal mishap, we don’t know – but we wish him well and look forward to catching up with him again soon.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising things – also to Pete and Jess at The Fleece who served up a splendid lunch.

And thanks for the beers, Rod. Top chap!

Birthday Boy Rod contemplates his bar bill – while Maurice is all smiles
34 miles clockwise from Braughing

Brian

Last of the dry rides

Some Windmiller spouses have long questioned our sporting credentials, teasing us that we are more a dining club than a cycling club. But it has been six long months* since we last enjoyed a good lunch in licensed premises – time enough to rebut that outrageous slur and demonstrate our commitment to the cause of cycling.

Maurice leads the way . . .
. . . and encounters Andrew’s group going the other way

While it has been an exceptionally long dry spell for the club – dry in the sense of teetotal – Thursday’s outing, while still dry, augured a brighter, more refreshing future. This was to be our last temperance ride before the mighty institution that is The British Public House opens for custom next week; or at least opens its garden. If the weather is good enough to cycle then it will be good enough to lunch!

So it was that some eighteen cheerful Windmillers set off, not just for their final abstemious outing, but also their final ride under rule-of-six restrictions. It was a repeat of last week’s 30 mile route, but an opportunity to reverse the direction of travel. Setting off from Bartlow were Andrew, Geoff, Lawrence, Deborah, Jenni, Brian, Chris, Charles, Martin, Suzanne and Tom; while setting off from Steeple Bumpstead were Maurice, Rod, Alan, Roger, Graham, Simon and Howard.

A number of Windmillers had cycled to the start including Suzanne, Graham, Mike, Tom and Brian; Mike clocking up an impressive 75 miles by the end of the day.

Brian demonstrates his side saddle technique

Along the way, there were a few compliance busting encounters as the various groups pulled over to chat and exchange news.

Who says you can’t take your dogs cycling? Tom stops to chat with mum, kids and a couple of huskies . . .
. . . while Jenni gets down with the kids
Reverend Moley Martin and Sister Suzanne
Give us a smile, please, Geoff

Cafés are few and far between in these parts, though several Windmillers did venture a few miles off circuit to visit the The Old Butchers Coffee Shop in Balsham; an excellent refreshment stop and well worth the diversion. And many found the coffee at the convenience store in Keddington more than acceptable, especially when Deborah was buying the cakes, individually wrapped madeleines, no less. Proust would have approved.

Well worth a visit

Poor old Tom suffered an unusual puncture caused by damaged rim tape, but being our star mechanic, this was fixed in no time.

Thanks as ever to Maurice and Andrew for organising things.

*Would you believe it, our last wet (beer-wise) outing was way back on 2 November in the Red Cow.

Brian

Categories
Lockdown Monday rides

New box, new socks

Charles certainly stamped his mark on this outing. We all know the man for his signature stripey hose – a look he has made all his own – but this Monday he was resplendent in a pair of fabulous new socks; all the colours of the rainbow on a tasteful black background. And the novelty didn’t stop there, back at the ranch Charles had crafted a new charity box, much bigger than the tatty old one, big enough indeed to kennel a large dog.

Charles’ new charity box – with Brian alongside for a sense of scale

Was it just me, or was this circuit particularly hilly? Whatever, eleven Windmillers turned out and most, I hope, got back before the worst of the rain later that afternoon.

For the record, the turnout was: Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Rod, Graham, Martin, Suzanne, Jeremy, Lawrence, Victor and Brian. And, for once, we captured everyone on camera. Here’s the photos, fresh back from the chemist . . .

Charles and Jeremy
Victor and Andrew
Martin and Suzanne
Rod
Graham, with Rod disappearing in the distance
Lawrence
Thumbs up, Maurice
Charles – modelling hosiery for the fashion conscious cyclist
21 very hilly miles

Thanks are due, as ever, to Maurice for the route, Andrew for logistics and Martin, Jeremy, Charles and Victor for pictures.

Brian

Categories
Lockdown Monday rides

St David’s Day Ride

We have English, Scots and Irish in the team but, to the best of my knowledge, no Welsh. More’s the pity, as this was a St. David’s Day outing.

And a chilly day it was too as a dozen Windmillers set off – some solo, some in pairs – for a 20 mile ride taking in Elmdon, Arkesden, Clavering, Brent Pelham, Langley Upper Green and Chrishall.

Being the Windmill Club, we are always on the lookout for a windmill photo opportunity. But have you noticed the shocking state of the mill at Brent Pelham? An oil painting it ain’t. Erected in 1826, it was adapted in the 20th century to house a water tank, was clad in corrugated iron and – as you will see below – is now in a very sorry state, indeed. Once Roger has finished restoring Furneux Pelham church maybe he can step in and restore Brent Pelham’s mill to its former glory.

For the record, Monday’s riders included Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Nick, Geoff, Rod, Jeremy, Alan, Suzanne, Graham, Deborah and Brian. Poor old Geoff had to repair a puncture but, apart from that, I believe everybody got around just fine.

20 miles on a Monday

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising things. Charles too for hosting the charity box.

Brian

Categories
Lockdown

What’s news?

If, like me, these twice weekly outings are the highlight of your lockdown, you will understand just how it lifts the spirit to see a fellow Windmiller pedalling your way. The hail-fellow-well-met is followed by the inevitable question, “What’s news?”, knowing full well your pal will have very little to report, and neither will you. Whereas a year ago we all had stories to swap and issues of the day to debate over a pub lunch, these days it’s just a brief bantered exchange on a country lane.

Friends Electric, Charles and Rod
Friends Mechanical, Graham and Mike

But there is some good news on the horizon. The end of lockdown is in sight and – come 29th March – it looks like we will be able to resume our Rule-of-Six rides. Welcome news, indeed, but an organisational nightmare for Andrew.

Then on 12 April, pub gardens open. Hallelujah! – 40 days and counting.

Lone Ranger Roger
Windmill Mob bosses, Andrew and Maurice

For the record, Thursday’s runners and riders were Maurice, Andrew, Laurence, Ken, Graham, Mike, Martin, Suzanne, Brian, Geoff, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Roger, Alan, Rod and Charles. Phew! That’s 17 Windmillers, all socially distanced, not to mention stone cold sober.

Mirror, mirror on the green, Who is the fairest you have seen? . . . It’s Martin!
Laurence, all smiles, but Simon isn’t so sure

As far as I know, nobody fell off or suffered a puncture. Some even managed to source a coffee at Elsenham or Stansted Mountfitchet, and we hear those two trenchermen, Graham and Mike, somehow managed two breakfasts; one at Flint Cross and another at Great Chishill.

Brian looks on while Geoff re-takes his cycling proficiency test

Then there’s Suzanne who did some fifty miles from home, as did Brian from his, and Martin who clocked up a very respectable thirty eight. Deborah’s natty new hi-viz was widely admired – and visible from space. Oh, and Ken and Suzanne found a lovely final resting place; see below.

Dead centre in Manuden, Ken and Suzanne
Churchgoers Deborah and Jenni
Lawrence, The Old Cock at Henham

Much love and thanks, as ever, to Andrew and Maurice for all their efforts; and not forgetting Charles, Martin and Simon for the many excellent photographs.

27 miles, whichever way you go

Brian

Categories
Monday rides

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Riding past Simon’s house on a chilly February morning, Jeremy and Brian spotted the man himself, togged out in gardening attire, trundling a wheel barrow across his estate.

“Not cycling today?” we cried.

“Weather’s not great . . . lots of pruning to do,” came the reply.

Grateful for a breather after the stiff hill climb up to Littlebury Green, we asked to see Simon’s famous ship’s bell. Found in a junk shop, he had lovingly restored it, built a frame to mount it, and given it to his missus for Christmas. It was indeed impressive; big and shiny. What else is there to say about a bell but could we hear it ring, please? Alas, it was a little early and Simon feared his neighbours would run for their air raid shelters.

Simon’s magnificent bell . . .
. . . he is particularly proud of his bell end

Once again, Charles hosted the club charity box – this time without the camera trap. It was here that Jeremy and Brian caught up with Andrew. Admiring Jeremy’s new helmet, Andrew and he swapped some rather alarming head injury experiences. That explains a lot, thought Brian.

Chez Charles – he reassures us our privacy will be respected

This day and age, it is hard to believe there is anyone left on the planet who hasn’t taken a selfie. Step up, Deborah Goodman. Her first ever effort, taken while stuffing a fiver into the charity box, shows she needs a bit more practice.

Deborah, concentrating hard

She reported the highlight of her ride was the slice of scrumptious Victoria sponge handed over the hedge by her friend in Langley Upper Green.

Deborah’s friend and a very welcome plate of cake

For the record, Monday’s team roster was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Julia, Lawrence, Martin, Maurice, Nick and Suzanne – all spread out over a 19 mile circuit. Let me know if I’ve missed anyone.

Martin and his carer. Keep up the good work, Suzanne.
She also helps out with Andrew
Jeremy and Brian
19 miles

Thanks as ever, Andrew and Maurice, for planning and organising everything. Thanks too, Charles, for hosting the charity box.

Brian

Categories
Monday rides

New Year Outing

A goodly number – I reckon it was twelve Windmillers – turned out on the first Monday of 2021 to burn off their Christmas pudding. Riding either solo or in pairs, the roster included: Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Jenni, Martin, Alan, Charles, Nick, Graham, Lawrence, Suzanne and Brian. Apologies if I have overlooked anyone; do let me know.

Maurice had devised a 23 mile circuit – with the charity box and a basket of beers tucked away on his driveway at Heath Farm – an ideal spot for our resident photographer to snap passing Windmillers.

Alan arrives at Heath Farm . . .
. . . then Nick . . .
. . . then . . . who is the mystery man? The fine military bearing, the SAS balaclava and the NAAFI-chic footwear all look familiar. It’s Charles, of course!

Alas, it was much too cold for our photographer to linger longer in the hope of snapping further Windmillers and, saddling up, he was last seen heading up the hill to Barkway.

There was an element of competition in the outing: who could turn in the fastest time on the 7 mile section near Heath Farm? Multiple claims, counter claims and allegations – not to mention dodgy historical data (thanks, Sandra) – appeared on the club’s WhatsApp message board – and I, for one, can’t make head or tail of it. It will all be forwarded to the relevant authorities – British Cycling, WADA, Guinness Book of Records, etc – for validation.

Maurice’s 23 mile, figure of eight route

Thanks as ever to Maurice for devising the route and providing the refreshments – and to Andrew for rousing us all off our sofas.

Brian

PS Lawrence, poor chap, lost his wallet somewhere between Barkway and Barley so, if anyone comes across it, please shout.

Categories
Essex

Chillin’ at Poppy’s Barn

Thursday morning saw sixteen Windmillers turn out for a tour of north west Essex, joining the circuit at whichever point was closest to home – some solo, some in pairs – some going clockwise, others anticlockwise – on a route taking in Saffron Walden, Widdington, Rickling, Stocking Pelham, Langley Upper Green – and Littlebury Green, where Simon hosted refreshments and the charity box.

Undaunted by Martin’s warning that much of the county was under water – we did indeed have to negotiate the odd flooded road – somehow we all got through without dismounting and wading.

Howard in particular had a memorable outing, pausing as he did to assist a stranded motorist. Not only had she a flat tyre, but hers was a vehicle equipped with a can of tyre repair sealant instead of a spare wheel. Howard did his best but only succeeded in getting the tyre semi-inflated. Thanking him profusely the lady drove off, only for Howard to encounter her – again with a flat tyre – a short distance down the road. It was time for her to call her family.

The 4th emergency service – the Windmill Club

Meanwhile, the day was turning out colder than forecast and we were looking forward to stopping off at Poppy’s Barn for coffee, sustenance and warmth. Alas, we had to sit outside and freeze as Geoff, Ken and Deborah had beaten us to it, arriving early and commandeering three separate tables (remember the rules; no household mixing!) Whereupon the proprietor, deciding she could not accommodate any more cyclists inside, asked the rest of us to sit outside. Humph! Neither did it help when Deborah gave us a jolly wave through the window as she tucked into her full English breakfast.

Deborah’s little snack
Deborah’s photo of us, taken from the warm interior of Poppy’s Barn

Suffering mild exposure, those of us finishing up at Simon’s were too chilled to consume cold beer and opted instead to stuff our fivers in the charity box and head for home. Poor old Victor and Brian, however, sustained punctures on the way home. Victor, making several stops to pump up his tyre, managed to get home without mending the puncture. No such luck for Brian, who found himself marooned on top of Coploe Hill with a totally flat tyre. Fortunately for him, Martin drove by on his way home, scooped him up and returned him to Great Shelford. Many thanks, Martin.

For the record, this week’s hardy bunch comprised Maurice, Andrew, Alan, Martin, Ken, Deborah, Geoff, Howard, Charles, Lawrence, Graham, Mike, Simon, Roger, Victor and Brian.

Simon reports the charity box yielded £120; well done, team! And thanks, as ever, Maurice and Andrew for organising it all.

Finally, we must just give a special mention to our two pals – Keith and Nigel – who, for various health related reasons, have been unable to join us for the past several months. We miss their company and look forward to them joining us again once things get back to normal in 2021.

August 2019: Nigel in yellow, Keith in red, their return keenly awaited as both owe us a birthday drink.
Categories
Uncategorized

Getting high in Essex

According to Wikipedia, the village of Chrishall marks the highest point in Essex, at some 147 metres above sea level. Atop these lofty heights lives our Windmill chum, Charles, who on Thursday was hosting the Club charity box.

Victor and Brian

Victor and Brian, having cycled from home, had already clocked up 40 miles and stopped to help a stranded cyclist, so we arrived at Charles’ somewhat later than expected. Just as the Union Jack flies over the Palace to signify the queen is in residence, we were hoping the Cross of St George flying over Chalky Lane meant that somebody was home. Letting ourselves in through the side gate, we found the place strangely deserted. Charles was probably walking his many dogs or otherwise airing his cavalry twills. No matter, stuffing our contributions in the charity box, we mounted up and headed back down the hill towards Great Shelford some ten miles distant.

We had enjoyed a delightful outing; perfect autumn weather, beautiful countryside, quiet roads and, every so often, a cheery wave – or a few brief words – exchanged with a Windmiller going the other way.

Maurice’s route in red, with Brian & Victors extra miles in blue

Our notable moments had included:

  • Graham passing us on the circuit not once, not twice but three times. The man is a machine!
Graham in full lycra. And Simon in, er, one bicycle clip.
  • Judging by the many photographs posted, the big log on the roadside between Little Hormead and Furneux Pelham proved a popular spot to pause for refreshments; we trust everyone sanitised the log before moving on.
  • Pulling up for a breather in Nuthampstead, we found ourselves outside Bridget Tarrington’s house – and there was the lady herself tending the garden. We had a lovely chat – hopefully overlooked by the lockdown police – separated as we were by Bridget’s garden gate. She sends her love to all and hopes to join us on a Monday ride in the spring.
Rod outside Bridget’s house
  • The aforementioned stranded cyclist was Suz, who we found mending a puncture by the roadside in Great Chishill. Helping out, we realised we had a mutual acquaintance; Suz lives in Wendens Ambo and is a near neighbour of Andrew’s. She was interested to know more about the Windmill Club and, who knows, we may even see her join us on future outings.

Finally, we must thank Maurice for the fine route, Andrew for logistics, and Graham, Simon, Martin and Deb for the many fine photographs.

Maurice
Andrew throwing some shapes
Martin and Charles
Simon and Lawrence
Ken and Deb
Rod and Alan
Categories
Suffolk

Punctures Galore!

Martin’s Group . . .

When cycling with Martin we recommend you bring a good book, or maybe the Times crossword, or even Travel Scrabble – anything to while away the hour it can take to mend one of his punctures. Being such a nice chap, everybody wants to help and for each additional helper you can add another 10 minutes. So Martin plus five helpers equals a one hour puncture repair.

Then there’s the collateral damage; this week’s included three new inner tubes (two exploded), one bicycle pump (also exploded), two CO2 cylinders (fully discharged), not to mention minor injuries (Roger’s finger, bent but not quite broken).

That aside, we enjoyed a delightful ride, Martin leading Geoff, Roger, Charles, Victor and Brian around a 30-odd mile loop from the Packhorse, Moulton to Maglia Rosso and back. Lunch – a little later than usual – was excellent and over a beer or two we swapped stories of Martin’s memorable mendings; the most notable of which include the one outside the Blackwall Tunnel and the one at the vicarage in Comberton. Check them out.

Of Graham’s group, Simon reports . . .

Bike rides are a bit like life. First comes the easy bit when you glide along thinking it’s all going well. What you haven’t noticed of course is that the wind has been behind you.

Out we went through Upper Green and Little Saxham to the bike shop and café at Hawstead Green – Simon, Mike, Deborah and Jenni – ably shepherded by Graham. The weather, in particular the westerly tail wind, was kind to us, apart from a brief hailstorm that forced us to shelter for a few minutes under a tree.

Funny how you don’t notice the wind until you turn and it is blowing in your face. Just like that stage of life when you are building a career and raising a family, you have to keep going. We pedalled on, legs aching, struggling to make headway, the scenery all a bit of a blur; though I do remember there were some busy roads and intimidating drivers to keep us on our toes.

Then came our mid-life crisis where everyone had to rally round with the sole objective of getting back to the pub on-time. On this occasion Deborah had a puncture after we had ridden past some seasonal hedge cutting.

Deborah and her pit crew

The group came together nicely. We had all the necessary kit but not always the clearest of ideas of how to use it. Still we muddled through and were soon on our way. The descent into Moulton came as a relief and, arriving back at the Pack Horse, we enjoyed a well earned beer.

By next Thursday we may even have the energy to do it all again, with the prospect of more stories, more laughs and finishing with another good lunch and a beer. So here’s to next Thursday. The weather can’t be that bad, can it?

Maurice’s Group . . .

. . . comprising Maurice himself, plus Howard, Ken, Rod, and Alan, had a memorable start, Maurice arriving as he did with a flat car tyre. Rumour has it he has never changed a wheel; “I have people who do that,” he explained. In no time, the Windmillers had his car jacked and the wheel changed in a marginally sub-Formula 1 time. We only hope Martin was watching and learning.

Maurice Clean Hands Warner

Needless to say, we had all enjoyed a great day out and owe a special thanks to Maurice – for selecting a fine route, Andrew – for getting us organised, and of course, Martin, Graham and Maurice (again) for leading us all safely around the circuit. Thanks, guys.

31 miles whichever way you go

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Uncategorized

Lost and Found

They call me the wanderer,
Yeah, the wanderer,
I roam around, around, around . . .

Lyrics sung by Dion in 1961

Thursday morning saw Ken and Martin ready and waiting to greet Windmillers arriving at The White Swan, Conington. Ken had prepared the route and – with Andrew laid up sick – Martin had taken on the logistics. Seventeen Windmillers were expected and, keeping us Covid safe, Martin had planned for us to gather, ride and take lunch in three groups, separated in time and space. What could possibly go wrong?

A flurry of Whatsapp messages and phone calls later, however, and Martin’s plans lay in tatters. Several Windmillers were stuck in traffic on the M11 and Deborah, distraught on the telephone, was lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire. With cyclists now arriving in dribs and drabs, Martin, thinking fast to avoid chaos, assembled and dispatched groups of six on a first come, first served basis.

Hail Weston welcomes Howard, Charles, Alan and Geoff

Meanwhile Deborah, still orbiting the outer reaches of the county, with Martin’s help was guided in to rendezvous at our refreshment stop – The Wheatsheaf, West Perry – where her spirits were revived with generous helpings of coffee and cake. No group outing for her, though she did at least manage a pleasant ride around Grafham Water, which the rest of us could only glimpse over a hedge.

Socially distanced coffee and cake at The Wheatsheaf, West Perry
Charles and Maurice outside the Wheatsheaf

Near Buckden, those of us following Simon were mortified to see him take a wrong turning on to the busy A1. Yikes! Attempting to call him back, we yelled for all we were worth, but to no avail; there he was pedalling alongside the traffic, seemingly bound for Scotch Corner and all points north.

Maurice on his e-bike, risking electrocution

That was the last we saw of Simon for some time as he embarked on an impromptu 17 mile tour of Brampton, Huntingdon, Godmanchester, the Hemingfords and Fenstanton before finally rejoining us at the White Swan in Conington. Mightily relieved to see him back safe, his arrival was applauded by Windmillers and locals alike. Somewhat pink in the face but otherwise unharmed, he enjoyed a restorative pint though was sadly too late for lunch.

Rod, Ric, Howard and Ken
Maurice, Martin, Lawrence, Graham and Mike
Simon, doing the stray cat strut

Simon, poor chap, suffered a final indignity when his car stubbornly refused to start. Martin, Ken and Lawrence tried pushing it around the car park before enquiring in the pub as to whether anyone might have jump leads. A very helpful Sandra-type lady came to the rescue, positioning her Audi alongside Simon’s Honda and, connecting up the cables, he was soon firing on all four again.

It had been an enjoyable, if eventful, outing – the majority of riders clocking up 35 miles. This week’s high mileage awards went naturally to Simon (42 miles), but also Ric (70 miles) and Graham (88 miles).

We all did the blue route, except Simon, who took the northerly detour marked in red

Thanks are due to Ken for planning the route and Martin for improvising his very own Operation Stack, avoiding chaos on the approaches to Conington, much like the Kent police do for Dover.

Finally, we must pay tribute to our dear friend, Vernon, who sadly passed away this week after a long illness, bravely fought. Our thoughts are with Moira and his family. We will be organising a memorial ride in the next few weeks.

Vernon Gamon, much loved and sorely missed
Categories
Braughing

Free ranging half dozens

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.

The A Team: Brian, Rod, Geoff, Andrew, Alan and (behind the camera) Martin
The B Team: Howard, Maurice, Victor, Roger, Simon and (behind the camera) Graham

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.

The A Team doing a socially distanced Ring a Ring ‘o Roses
Hungry looks from Victor and Howard

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 . . .

Allen Scythe

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.

31 miles anti-clockwise from Braughing

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.

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Stevenage

Deflated & Stung

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.

Ready for the off, apart from . . .
. . . Andrew, deflated but not yet stung

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.

Lovely crumpet at Emily’s Tea Room

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.

Looking good, Rod
29 miles clockwise around Stevenage, starting from Halls Green

Thanks, Maurice, for another great outing. Andrew too, ever cheerful in the face of adversity, for getting us all organised.

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Steeple Bumpstead Suffolk

Coffee & cake at Clare

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.

At Clare station; a map of the long lost Stour Valley line
35 miles clockwise from Steeple Bumpstead

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.