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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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Sicklesmere Suffolk Uncategorized

Beerless at Lavenham

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.

31 miles clockwise from Sicklesmere
Categories
Steeple Bumpstead

Cowsheds and Lychgates

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.

Gathering at Steeple Bumpstead

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?

Keeping body and soul together under the lych-gate in Stambourne . . .
. . . while it rained stair-rods. Note the outdoor sleeping arrangements peculiar to this part of Suffolk

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.

Cosy in the cowshed

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.

28 miles clockwise from Steeple Bumpstead
Categories
Suffolk

6 August 2020: Events, dear boy, events

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.

Holy Innocents Church, Lamarsh

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.

Andrew repairs his chain while Charles engages with local dog walker
Andrew and his pit crew

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.

The harvest is in full swing

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.

Refreshments at The Bell Inn, Kersey

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.

Simon looking dapper in his Panama

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.

34 miles anticlockwise from Long Melford
What’s this in Andrew’s car? A pink horsewhip? Sometimes it’s best not to ask.
Categories
Braughing

23 July 2020: Simon’s kit bike

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.

Happy birthday, Howard!

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.

30 miles clockwise from Braughing

Brian

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Uncategorized

16 July 2020: Birthday catchup no. 2 – Deborah’s

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.

Roger, Ken, Jenni, Deborah and Geoff at the Orwell meridian marker

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.

Pausing to take in the view across the Wimpole estate
Wimpole café – a lovely spot if you don’t mind queuing for your coffee

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!

Lunching at the Red Cow
31 miles – including a new 3 mile section through the Wimpole estate

Thanks, Maurice, for planning another delightful outing – and, of course, Deborah for the beers.

Brian

Categories
Uncategorized

2 July 2020: Rose’s Ride

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.

Suzanne, Deborah and Roger hopeful of a bus to Chrishall

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.

Charles’ Hickeys – laces are so old school

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. 

Cheers!

As ever, you will find more pictures in the gallery on our website.

Brian

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Uncategorized

25 June 2020: Feeling the heat at Wimpole

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.

Hard luck, Maurice

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.

Shady characters at Wimpole
Howard, seemingly sitting on a pedal. I didn’t know you could do that

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.

Cheers, Lawrence
29 miles whichever way you go

Brian

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Uncategorized

11 June 2020: Socially distanced

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!

Thumbs up from Geoff
Bionic man, Maurice
Rod in glorious technicolor
Simon on his lovingly restored Dawes
What’s this Graham? Mudguards? In June?
Brian looking like he’s about to give the photographer a mouthful
Deborah with her fancy water bottle
Looking good, Jenny
Roger, all smiles
Lawrence; how green is your valley?
Martin, off the wall
Last but not least, Charles and those socks

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.

30 miles – any which way

Brian

PS You may notice we have updated the website; a new look and a few new pages too. Check it out.

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Uncategorized

5 March 2020: Wet? Not ‘arf!

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.

27 miles anticlockwise – and looking a little lost around Clavering
Deborah and Graham circumventing a road closure

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.

Graham’s sugar fix

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.

Brian

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30 January 2020: Motorbikes, Donkeys and Cake

Nigel’s workshop

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.

30 miles anticlockwise from Widdington

Brian

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24 January 2020: Mudguards at Balsham

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.

Have mudguards – keep clean

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.

Olmstead Green, now known as Roger’s Tumble

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?

Would you buy a pair of used Schwalbe Marathons from him?
30 miles clockwise from Balsham

Thanks, Maurice for another wonderful outing – and Andrew for organising things.

Brian

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6 January 2020: Sandra’s Mercy Dash

Ambulancewoman Sandra

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!

14 miles clockwise from Anstey – with a stop for first-aid in Furneux Pelham

Brian

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2 January 2019 – The New Year begins at Widdington

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.

Waiting patiently for Andrew – shoelaces can be such a challenge.

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.

It was wet in parts

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

Thanks, Andrew for leading the way.

30 miles clockwise from Widdington

Brian

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30 December 2019: 21 miles under blue skies

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.

21 miles anticlockwise from Thriplow

Here’s looking forward to many more rides together in 2020.

And a very Happy New Year to all our readers.

Brian