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24 October 2019: Spooky Cake

The season turns, nights draw in and Windmillers wrap up warm against the autumn chill; apart from Sandra, Simon and Charles who, being made of sterner stuff, refuse to give up the shorts until Jack Frost nips at their kneecaps.

Ready for the off

So it was that Sandra in her lycra summer wear, Simon in his Baden Powell britches, and Charles in his signature stripey socks, met up with the rest of us in our sensible leggings. We were at The Woodman for our weekly Thursday outing and, for the record, the others in our gang were: Ken, Martin, Graham, Lawrence, Roger, Brian and Deborah; the latter looking remarkably spry considering she had finished a night shift just a few hours earlier.

Setting out from The Woodman, Sandra – this week’s routemeister – steered us via Wyddial to Buntingford and then on through Westmill, Great Munden, Moor Green and Ardeley – where we pulled in for coffee and cake at Church Farm. The place was decked out for Halloween and the cake selection featured various spooky treats. Graham sampled the Halloween Chilli Sponge while Simon opted for the Bloodstained Victoria Sandwich. Meanwhile Deborah – with an afternoon’s horse riding still to come – kept going with strong coffee. 

Fashion icons Charles and Graham modelling a range of autumn wear
Deborah looking forward to a caffeine fix

Refreshed and back on the bikes, we followed Sandra out of Ardeley towards Cromer for the return leg to Nuthampstead. With the sugar beet harvest in full swing, the roads hereabouts were liberally coated in mud and we soon assumed a somewhat mud-speckled appearance. When the rain arrived it was a mixed blessing; we got wet – but we also got clean again.

Brian looking forward to a restorative pint

Tumbling back into the Woodman, we were delighted to be joined by John Bagrie while Deborah headed off to the stables. We enjoyed a pint and a jolly good lunch.

Back at The Woodman

It had been an excellent ride along a well chosen route: scenic and almost traffic free. Thanks, Sandra.

30 miles clockwise from Nuthampstead

Brian

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3 October 2019: On Maurice’s home turf

Thursday morning saw 12 Windmillers set off from the Golden Fleece at Braughing, Maurice leading the way, followed by Andrew, Ken, Keith, Howard, Charles, Roger, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon and Brian.

Born and bred hereabouts, Maurice needs no map. He led the way south – through Puckeridge, Levens Green, Sacombe Green and Bengeo – to Hertford where we picked up the Lea Navigation towpath. Then it was a leisurely ride along the riverside to Ware and a welcome coffee stop at the café in the town centre.

Refreshed, we continued along the river as far as Stanstead Abbotts where, leaving the towpath, we turned northwards for the return leg – via Hunsdon, Barwick and Standon – to Braughing.

A puncture in Keith’s rear tyre entailed a small delay but, with Howard’s help, this was soon mended and we were underway once more, arriving back at the Fleece soon after 1 o’clock.

A delightful morning was topped off with an excellent lunch served up by Landlord Peter.

Thanks, Maurice for your intuitive, satnav-like guidance around the quieter lanes of North Herts. Andrew too, for getting us all organised.

Brian

31 miles anticlockwise from Braughing
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26 September 2019: Milling around at Bourn

Bourn Windmill

We felt slightly giddy, standing on the mill floor as the entire structure – tower, sails, the lot – turned through all points of the compass. Propelled by our unseen friends outside, our little world was turning; twenty-odd tons of oak, cast iron and millstone creaked alarmingly about our ears as sunbeams and shadows danced across the internal walls.

Sandra and Lawrence doing all the pushing while Roger and Martin discuss Brexit

We were on another of Martin’s marvellous outings. You may remember the last one involved crossing an expanse of open water in a small boat. This time we were getting up close and personal with some 17th century heavy engineering.

Simon, Victor, Claire, Howard and Geoff showing how it should be done

Setting out from Abington Pigotts earlier that morning, Martin had led the way – via Hatley St George and the Gransdens – to Bourn where he had arranged a tour of the mill. Our host Kate plus volunteers Derek and Claire were expecting us and gave a warm welcome.

Built in 1636, Bourn is one of the oldest windmills in England and a designated Ancient Monument. Perched in lovely countryside to the west of Cambridge it is owned and cared for by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future.

Derek and Claire gave us a fascinating insight into the ingenuity of millwrights – before splitting us into two groups: the innies who were to be whirled around inside – and the outies who did the pushing. Innies and outies then swapped over so all had a turn at pushing / feeling queasy.

Afterwards Kate invited us into her garden where we enjoyed tea, coffee and some wonderful home-baked treats. Delightful as it was, we had another 17 miles to go and so, thanking Kate, Derek and Claire for their hospitality, we saddled up and set off on the return leg.

Kate and Martin

Approaching Harlton, Martin led us off road and up hill on a rough track for a mile or so before before descending towards Orwell. Then it was on to Meldreth, Bassingbourn and eventually the home straight back to the Pig and Abbot.

Over a hearty lunch and a beer there was much talk of windmills followed by a fierce debate as to whether Landlady Pat’s meat pies were superior to her meat puddings; opinion was divided and we agreed to return and gather more data in the near future.

For the record our gang of cyclists comprised Martin, Andrew, Sandra, Ken, Howard, Roger, Ric, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon,  Vernon and Brian – and we clocked up 32 miles.

32 miles clockwise from Abington Pigotts

Thanks, Martin, for another excellent outing; Andrew too for the logistics. And a special thanks to Kate, Derek and Claire for their hospitality. Great cakes, Kate!

Checkout the CPPF website for further information on Bourn Mill – and there are more pictures in our 2019 photo album – including a video of us turning the mill.

Brian

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6 September 2019: Ahoy, shipmates!

How many Windmillers can you fit in a small boat? Well now we know: eleven, including bikes.

Room for 6 more

Martin had promised us a day at the seaside. So it was that eleven Windmillers set out from Brightlingsea for an outing to Clacton. It was an unseasonally chilly morning so we left our buckets, spades and bathing costumes in the car.

“Are we nearly there yet?” was the oft-heard refrain as we pedalled after Martin for some 16 miles – through Great Bentley and Thorpe-le-Soken – before finally seeing the sea at Walton-on-the-Naze.

The Naze Tower

We pulled in for coffee at the Essex Wildlife Trust café, adjacent to the historic Naze tower. It was a timely stop as Keith had just developed a puncture.

Puncture repairs

Refreshed and with Keith’s puncture mended, we set off along the promenade for 12 traffic-free miles taking in Frinton, Holland-on-Sea and Clacton. And what a blissful ride it was, under wide blue skies with a clear horizon and very little wind.

Clacton Pier

Pulling up at Point Clear, we could see our destination 500 yards away across Brightlingsea Creek. Martin made a call to check the foot ferry was operating. It was; which was just as well – the return by road would have meant an extra 20 miles and no lunch.

“About that ferry I ordered . . .”

It was at this point that we started having doubts about Martin’s plan – as we traipsed after him, pushing the bikes with some difficulty across several hundred yards of shingle and sand. There was no sign of a ferry – or even a jetty – and how exactly would we get off the beach and on to a boat? Wading with bikes held aloft? There was nothing at the water’s edge, not even a footprint – just an expanse of open water between us and Brightlingsea.

Brightlingsea – so near, and yet so far

“Mmmm,” said Martin as, pulling out his phone again, he made another call. Lo and behold, a little boat chugged out of Brightlingsea harbour heading our way. Reaching the shore, the skipper lowered a landing ramp and invited us aboard. What all of us? On that little thing? Bikes too?

Five minutes later and now fully laden the little craft was ferrying us across the creek. What larks!

Finding our sea legs
A motley crew
Galley slaves

Disembarking at the town jetty, we saddled up and rode the last few hundred yards to The Rosebud where we lunched in the garden overlooking the Colne Estuary.

Landlubbers once more

For the record the eleven Windmillers were Martin, Andrew, Maurice, Deborah, Graham, Charles, Keith, Lawrence, Roger, Ric and Brian.

Well done, Martin, and many thanks for a wonderful day. We never doubted you really.

Brian

Cheers!
36 miles clockwise from Brightlingsea

PS There’s lots more pictures in our 2019 album here

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22 August 2019: Therfield

A sunny Thursday morning saw twelve Windmillers setting out from the Fox & Duck, Sandra leading the way followed by Ken, Howard, Charles, Rod, Ric, John, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon, Neil and Brian.

This being her home patch, Sandra knew well the quietest, most picturesque lanes as we followed her through Sandon, Cumberlow Green, Warren’s Green and Weston, stopping only for Brian to mend a puncture.

Descending into Baldock, we pulled in for coffee at Delizia where the proprietor, shrewdly spotting an up-selling opportunity, plonked a large tray of croissants and pastries in the middle of our table. Within minutes they were gone, leaving only crumbs and sticky fingers.

Blood sugar levels restored, we mounted up and headed for Ashwell, from where – taking our lives in our hands – we crossed the busy A505 and headed back to Therfield via Sandon and Kelshall.

Arriving at the pub, we met up with John Bagrie, enjoyed a beer on the green and inspected Neil’s impressive tool collection before sitting down to a restorative lunch.

Thanks, Sandra, for a lovely morning’s ride.

Brian

30 miles clockwise from Therfield

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15 August 2019: Hartest

Thirteen Windmillers set off from The Crown for a 31 mile jaunt around the lanes of south east Suffolk.

Andrew, Sandra, Ken, Howard, Roger, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Simon, Tom and Brian followed Maurice out of Hartest and on through Shimpling, Lavenham and Brent Eleigh to Acton, where we pulled in at Wally’s Shed for refreshment. Tucked away on an industrial estate, Wally’s offers good nosh at keen prices. Where else would a cost conscious Windmiller enjoy a round of toast and a mug of tea – and all for £1.10?

In Wally’s Shed

Back on the bikes we made short work of the return leg via Long Melford, Glemsford and Hawkedon, arriving back at The Crown bang on time for a 1 o’clock lunch. No bargain basement prices here, just some really good cooking.

Lunching at The Crown

Nobody got lost, wet, stung or fell off.

Once again, our thanks go to Maurice for researching a lovely route on quiet roads – and Andrew for finding out where’s Wally.

31 miles clockwise from Hartest

Brian

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1 August 2019: Stevenage Orbital

Andrew, Graham, Ken and Maurice at Emily’s Tea Room

Thirteen Windmillers set off from The Rising Sun, Halls Green, for a 28 mile loop around Stevenage. Leading the peloton was Maurice closely followed by Andrew, Ken, Keith, Howard, Rod, Roger, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Lawrence, Nigel and Brian.

Among the hazards of summer cycling are close encounters with wasps. Sure enough – and within a few miles of the start – Graham was stung on the lip. The poor chap has had more than his fair share of facial injuries recently and – although there was no blood this time – the swelling was impressive and Graham soon looked like he’d done a few rounds with Mike Tyson. Passing through Codicote, we stopped at a chemist for sting relief.

Our next stop was for refreshment at Emily’s Tea Shop in Whitwell. A favourite with local cyclists, the North Herts Club were there in force. Decked out in matching blue livery they made us Windmillers look rather dowdy in comparison.

Back on the bikes, we made short work of the return leg to Weston and Halls Green where John and Vernon joined us at the pub for a welcome beer and a good lunch.

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising everything.

Lunch at the Rising Sun
28 miles clockwise

Brian

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11 July 2019: Mud, Blood and Beer

Mud . . .

Well rutted‘ would be a rough summary of Andrew’s route. Indeed, some say that’s a rough summary of Andrew.

Starting from the Fleur in Widdington, Andrew led us out of the village via Cornells Lane – a no through road that degenerates into a dirt track; easy terrain for a ruggedised Land Rover but quite challenging for cyclists. Before long we had shouldered the bikes and were picking our way around trench-fuls of mud.

The other talking point of the day was Graham, or rather Graham’s face, which bore the scars of a heavy tumble from a mountain bike earlier in the week. It looked terrible but he assured us it only hurt when he smiled.

Blood . . .

So there was plenty to talk about when we pulled into the Blue Egg for coffee. It was here that Geoff let slip it was his birthday and he would be buying the beers. Quick as a flash we were back on the bikes and peddling furiously towards Widdington. Howard and Roger being the fittest – or maybe just the thirstiest – beat the rest of us to the bar by a clear 10 minutes.

. . . and beer!

Landlord Chris served us an excellent lunch in the garden and we raised a glass to Geoff. Happy Birthday, old timer!

For the record:

Roger, Victor, Andrew, Charles, Geoff, Simon, Chris and Nigel all clocked up 36 miles – with Sandra, Howard, Graham and Brian adding several more cycling from home and back.

Thanks, Andrew, for organising everything. We even enjoyed the muddy challenge.

Brian

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27 June 2019: Shotley Peninsula

No that’s what I call a Gatehouse. The Windmillers at Ewarton Hall

Thursday morning saw seven Windmillers set off from the Carrier’s Arms, East Bergholt, for a tour of the Shotley peninsula. Blessed with a lovely June morning, Maurice – followed by Andrew, Howard, Roger, Graham, Simon and Brian – led the way out into the Suffolk countryside.

Everything was going smoothly until our leader was brought to a sudden and unexpected halt, his chain jammed in the chainwheel. Dismounting, and with much effing and jeffing, Maurice tried freeing it with brute force – but to no avail.

We were pondering what to do next when Simon, reaching into his saddlebag, pulled out a large steel spike which, he maintained, was a tyre lever. Mmm, maybe for a tractor we thought, though some likened it more to a housebreaker’s jemmy. Whatever, in Howard’s capable hands it did the trick and – hey presto – Maurice was mobile again.

Ewarton Hall

Our next stop was at Ewarton where we pulled in to admire the 16th century Hall. Seeing us at the bottom of her drive, the owner came out to chat and filled us in on some of the history. The Hall was once owned by Anne Boleyn’s uncle and according to legend, Anne loved the place so much she gave instructions that her heart should be buried in the local church. The owner doubts whether Anne’s heart is really there though during Victorian times renovations did uncover a heart-shaped tin casket in the church. This is now buried beneath the organ with a plaque marking the spot.

The marina at Shotley Gate

Rounding the peninsula at Shotley Gate, we paused for a photo with the cranes of Felixstowe docks as a backdrop.

Back on the bikes we made the steep descent down to Pin Mill for a coffee stop at the Butt & Oyster. We sat outside taking in the view over the Orwell and speculating as to what else Simon might have in his saddlebag. Maybe a lump hammer or two?

With the wind at our backs, we made short work of the return stretch to East Bergholt and lunch at the Carriers Arms. 

From East Bergholt to Shotley Gate and back

We had clocked up 34 miles, apart from Graham who seems to be competing with Sandra to make the rest of us look lazy. He opted to cycle the additional 60 miles home to Ickleton. Cor blimey, Graham.

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising another super outing.

Brian

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20 June 2019: Hertfordshire Hills

Raring to go? Or shall we just stay here in the garden?

Thursday morning saw eleven Windmillers gathering in the garden of the Golden Fleece at Braughing – Ric, Roger and Sandra arriving on two wheels while the rest of us – Maurice, Keith, Howard, Charles, Rod, Chris, Victor and Brian – arrived on four.

Being such a beautiful morning some were tempted to stay in the garden and natter away for an hour in the sunshine. Alas our leader had other plans and – Landlord Peter having taken our lunch orders – Maurice led the way out of Braughing for a tour of the Herts hills.

Crossing the Rib at Barwick

Some five miles in – and for reasons unknown – some in the lead pulled up unexpectedly and poor old Charles, ploughing into the back of the peloton, took a tumble and gashed his knee. Old soldier that he is, he shrugged it off, got back on his bike and carried on.

The rest of the outing was thankfully uneventful, taking in the villages of Cold Christmas, Thundridge and Bassus Green, the blood trail from Charles’ knee proving helpful for the tailenders to follow.

After 24 miles and several stiff ascents, Church Farm, Ardeley, was a welcome sight and we pulled in for coffee and cake.

Paying our respects to Thomas Clarkson

Back on the bikes we made short work of the remaining 8 miles, stopping just once at Wadesmill to admire the monument to Thomas Clarkson (1760 – 1846), leader of the anti-slavery movement.

Arriving back at the pub we enjoyed a beer and a good lunch, well satisfied with our 32 miles. For Sandra, however, that was only the warm up. She texted later that day to say she had clocked up 126 miles. Respect!

32 miles clockwise from Braughing

Thanks, Maurice, for organising another excellent outing.

Brian