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2 January 2020 – 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

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19 December 2019 – Flat Tyres and Rusty Chains

Deborah and her pit crew

Thursday morning and we were about to set off from the Fleur, when Andrew’s phone rang. “Be there in a mo,” said Deborah, apologising profusely. Sure enough within five minutes she was pulling her bike from the car and raring to go. We couldn’t help but notice, however, her remarkably rusty chain, not to mention two almost-flat tyres.

The Windmillers enjoy a scrapheap challenge and so, in a trice, Brian had produced a stirrup pump and Simon, resourceful chap, had disappeared into the pub kitchen in search of oil. Deborah looked on bemused as Andrew pumped her tyres and Simon – courtesy of Chef – applied liberal doses of extra virgin olive oil to all moving parts.

Oily Simon and Windy Andrew

With the bicycle maintenance done, we were off – Andrew leading the way, followed by Deborah, Martin, Simon, Victor, Howard, Graham and Brian – the tail-enders taking care to avoid the growing trail of olive oil.

But we had only gone a mile when Simon picked up a puncture on the muddy road near the quarry. This was soon fixed – though given the filthy condition of the roads hereabouts – poor old Simon was now coated in a mucky emulsion of mud and olive oil.

Parrishes Tea Room in Thaxted

Thankfully, it was plain sailing from there on and, within the hour we were pulling in for coffee and cake at Thaxted.

Refreshed and back on the bikes, Andrew took us down a little known byway, cunningly signed “Strictly Private” by the farmer – though a quick check on the OS map showed it was indeed a public thoroughfare. Somewhat muddy (let’s try it again in the summer), this picturesque lane took us through the tiny hamlet of Tindon End and emerged just outside Great Sampford.

Pausing for pictures in Hempstead, we were saddened to see the Bluebell pub – birthplace of Dick Turpin – had closed.

Notorious highwayman, Graham Dolman

Arriving back at the Fleur, we were delighted to be joined by Maurice, Nigel and Ken – and Deborah kindly bought us all a beer.

Thanks for the beers, Deborah!

Thanks go to Andrew for planning it all.

And a Merry Christmas to all our readers!

29 miles anticlockwise from Widdington

Brian

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28 November 2019: A Muddy Birthday for Lawrence

“Guaranteed mud-free or your money back” was Brummie Brian’s sales pitch for Thursday’s ride; a rash promise considering it had been raining steadily for two days.

Keeping dry in Cara Coffee

Ten Windmillers – a goodly turnout considering the weather – met up at Cara Coffee in Great Shelford. Joining Brian were Deborah, Roger, Charles, Rod, Howard, Victor, Tom, Yorkshire Brian – and Lawrence, this week’s Birthday Boy, resplendent in a new all-weather top; a present from a doting daughter.

Lawrence modelling the new season’s cyclewear

Setting out from Shelford we headed for Hauxton, crossed Trumpington Meadows to Grantchester and on to Coton, where we took the cycleway into Cambridge. Pausing for photographs on Garret Hostel Bridge, Charles yelled encouragement to the tourist punts passing on the river below. Poor souls, they looked chilled to the bone. Why go punting in winter, anyway? Beats me.

On Garret Hostel Bridge

Weaving through the town centre, we followed Brian to Jesus Green and thence along the River Cam towpath through Chesterton to Milton, where we pulled in for coffee at Grounds Café.

It was in Milton Country Park that the first mud-related mutterings were heard from the peloton. “It’s not mud, it’s moisture,” yelled Brian over his shoulder. But we were soon back on the road and, mutiny averted, we headed for Landbeach and then on to Waterbeach – where we rejoined the riverside for the return leg to Cambridge.

Some were heard to liken the towpath to a mud bath. “The drainage is a little patchy,” conceded Brian, staying well ahead of the pack and not daring to look back.

Deborah, “Mud? Wot mud?”

Nearing Chesterton, Victor took a tumble, a victim of the wooden rails along the towpath that have claimed Martin and Vernon on previous outings. Glad to say, the involuntary dismount was momentary, indeed, executed in some style and – in a trice – Victor was back in the saddle, unscathed, nay unmudded.

Crossing town again, we joined the cycleway running along the guided bus track, the home straight back to Great Shelford, where we were delighted to find Ken, Martin and Maurice waiting for us at The Square and Compasses. We enjoyed a good lunch and Lawrence, top chap, bought the beers. Happy Birthday, Lawrence!

29 miles clockwise from Great Shelford

Brian

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14 November. Pub closed? Not to Windmillers

Lunch in the Fleur

Rarely does poor weather force cancellation of a Thursday outing. But sometimes it does, triggering our well rehearsed contingency plan. We call it “Let’s have a bloody good lunch.”

So it was that Martin put away his Blackwater Estuary map for another day and we opted instead for a short trip to our favourite local, The Fleur de Lys.

Alas, Landlords Chris and Ellie had been forced to close for the day as the water main supplying Widdington had failed. Even the road into the village was closed while contractors dug it up to repair the pipe.

But all was not lost; a quick call to Chris and he offered to open up specially for us. We even managed to sweet talk our way past the contractors and the Road Closed signs.

Ric, Geoff, Andrew and Graham, determined to clock up at least a few miles in the saddle, cycled to Widdington while the rest of us – Lawrence, SimonT, SimonO, Maurice, Ken, Howard, Martin and Brian – took the easy option and drove there.

Chris and Ellie did us proud by improvising an excellent lunch of chips and sandwiches. God knows how they did the washing up, maybe they used beer. Many, many thanks to them both.

Brian

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31 October 2019: Sixteen for Halloween

Wot, no shorts?

Sixteen Windmillers! A record turnout, not to mention a serious overtaking challenge for the hard pressed motorists of Cambridgeshire. It was Halloween and the cast list for our rocky horror show was: Ken, Sandra, Andrew, Geoff, Howard, Tom, Ric, Simon, Vernon, Roger, Graham, Lawrence, Keith, Charles, Brian and Deborah; the latter fashionably late but catching up with us a mile down the road.

The ground frost had lifted by the time we got going but even the hardiest among us had decided to forgo the shorts; indeed some were wearing ski gloves.

Ken – this week’s routemeister – had devised a 30-ish mile circuit starting just off the A14 at Boxworth and taking in Papworth Everard, Abbotsley, Waresley and Cambourne. A novel route, especially so for the farmer who took exception to Ken’s shortcut across his land in a bid to avoid the Papworth Everard bypass. The first dozen of us got across before the mass trespass was spotted, but the tailenders – Tom, Ric, Graham, Lawrence, Sandra and Howard – got waylaid and told in no uncertain terms to sling their hook. With the peloton now divided, there was a 15 minute delay while we all caught up with each other again – on the Papworth Everard bypass!

Hanging out at Abbotsley while Roger mends his puncture

The only other incident of note was a puncture sustained by Roger but this was soon mended.

Pulling in for refreshments at Waresley Park Garden Centre, we enjoyed coffee and cake and debated the issues of the day – polling dates, England’s chances in the rugby world cup, ailments – you know the sort of thing.

Simon gets his sugar fix

Lunch at the Golden Ball on this our first visit was excellent and – a lovely surprise – Maurice turned up looking hale and hearty just two weeks after his operation. Sitting next to him, Brian tested Maurice’s reaction time – not to mention his patience – by tipping a pint over his leg. Thankfully, it wasn’t the one with the stitches.

Good to see Maurice back

Thanks, Ken, for planning an excellent outing; Andrew too for getting us all organised.

29 miles anticlockwise from Boxworth

Brian

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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

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30 May 2019: Widdington to Finchingfield

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High fives at Finchingfield Windmill

A warm and sunny Thursday morning saw twelve Windmillers turning out for a ride from Widdington to Finchingfield and back. Joining us for the first time was Howard who, having bought a car from Maurice’s nephew, had been given a hot tip; check out the Windmill Club! Howard joins our growing contingent of riders from Saffron Walden.

We were also glad to see Graham back and looking fit as a fiddle.

Picking our way through the contractors digging up the road outside the Fleur de Lys, Maurice – closely followed by Andrew, Sandra, Deborah, Ken, Graham, Ric, Chris, Geoff, Roger, Brian and Howard – led the way out towards Debden and on to Radwinter.

We noticed Geoff wasn’t riding his usual machine; alas it had been stolen while on a cycling holiday. But there was a happy ending – within a few days of reporting his loss the insurance company had stumped up the money in full. Geoff will be out on a new bike – same as the last one – very soon.

Arriving in Finchingfield, we found Bosworth’s Tea Room had closed, been refurbished and had now reopened as Winners Tea Room. And very good it was too, with better cakes and better coffee.

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Winners Tea Room, Finchingfield

On the return leg, and just a few hundred yards from the Fleur, Roger pulled up with a puncture. What is it with that section of road at the top of Widdington? Roger is the third Windmiller – after Brian and Martin – to suffer a puncture there.

Arriving back at the Fleur we were greeted by John Bagrie and, rearranging the tables, the whole gang of us sat down to a fine lunch in the garden. It seems hardly a week goes by without a birthday and the associated pressure to buy everyone a beer. This time it was Ken’s turn.

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Happy Birthday, Ken

Inspired by our recent visit to P&A Wood, Deborah had brought along a family heirloom. Written by her grandfather-in-law, Bryan Goodman, it was a boxed, gilt edged, two volume history of the Edwardian Rolls-Royce. Very impressive.

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Deborah’s book

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35 miles clockwise from Widdington

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising another fine summer outing.

Brian

Footnote: Riding home through Newport after lunch, Brian and Ric had to swerve to avoid a semi-naked man, chased by a policeman, running at full tilt down the middle of the High Street. Newport, eh? A little town full of surprises.

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23 May 2019: Ireland

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Brian returns to Ireland  . . .  in Bedfordshire

Thursday’s outing saw the Windmillers pay a return visit to Ireland – not the Emerald Isle – but a little place of the same name in Bedfordshire.

Setting off from the Cock at Broom, Brian – followed by Andrew, Bruce, Keith, Lawrence, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Tom – led the way around a 26 mile circuit very similar to last year’s but with some off road additions. What’s more it was polling day – this time for the European Parliament – and indeed we passed many a polling station along the way.

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Keith’s got a cool new bike and matching outfit

As last year, we pulled in at the Shuttleworth Collection to peek into the hangers full of restored aeroplanes before continuing on through Ickwell – surely one of the prettiest villages in Bedfordshire – Northill and the delightfully named Moggerhanger. All had polling stations, but all seemingly devoid of voters.

Venturing off road, we joined the Ouse Valley Way, now part of National Cycle Route 51, following the line of the old Varsity Railway which used to run between Cambridge and Oxford until it was axed in the Beeching cuts of the 60s.

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The blessed St Lawrence . . . this time in Willington

Joining the road again at Willington, we paused for a photo beside the 16th century dovecote before pulling in for coffee and cake at Cardington Barns.

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Windmillers at Willington Dovecote

Refreshed, we made short work of the return leg – via Ireland – to Broom and a warm welcome at The Cock where we were joined by John Bagrie. Rod bought the beer – Happy Birthday, Rod! – and told the best Brexit related joke; something about the backstop being an item one purchases from the surgical counter at Boots.

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John enjoying lunch

While lunching we were very pleased to hear that Martin’s prolonged stay in Addenbrookes had finally come to an end and he is on his way home. The following day we also heard that Graham’s visit to Papworth had been successful and mercifully brief. We shall expect full reports from you both – but spare us any pictures.

We look forward to seeing Martin and Graham back on two wheels again soon.

Brian

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26 miles anticlockwise from Broom

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16 May 2019: Happy Birthday Graham

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Maurice leading the way through Kersey

A sunny Thursday morning saw eleven Windmillers – Deborah, Sandra, Lawrence, Andrew, Geoff, Simon, Ken, Tom, Brian, Maurice and this week’s birthday boy, Graham – setting off from the Henny Swan for a tour of the Suffolk / Essex border country.

Our first stop was for a photo opportunity at the Church of St Lawrence, Great Waldingfield, where we considered offering up a get well prayer for our pal Martin who is banged up in Addenbrookes Hospital recovering from a nasty virus. But on reflection, we thought it best to wait for pub opening time and toast him with a good ale.

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Lawrence Wragg: saint or sinner?

Our next stop was Boxford where we pulled in at The Coffee Stop for refreshment. Still in Boxford and just a little further down the road, we pulled in again at Howard Watts’ garage and motor showroom. No Rolls-Royces or Bentleys here, but a fine collection of lovingly restored Ferraris, Porsches and E-Types – plus some less familiar models, such as the 1961 French Panhard. Howard, a friend of Maurice’s and a larger than life, diamond geezer of a character, was most welcoming, showing off his beloved collection and entertaining us with his many stories.

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Hanging out with Howard at Boxford

Back on the bikes, we took a diversion to visit Kersey; surely one of the prettiest villages in this part of the world.

Now well behind schedule and making best efforts to catch up, we were delayed yet again when Brian pulled up with a puncture. This was fixed soon enough – but not before we had endured Andrew’s usual sermon on the merits of Schwalbe Marathons.

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Geoff risking electrocution on his e-bike

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Andrew, feet dry but taking the strain on his soft tissue

One last challenge remained, the surprisingly hilly section around the village of Lamarsh, before we finally made the descent, hot and hungry, to the The Henny Swan.

Sharing a table in the garden, we enjoyed an excellent lunch plus several beers courtesy of Graham. We’ll be thinking of him next Thursday when he’s having his wiring checked out at Papworth. Good luck, Graham.

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Happy Birthday Graham

We also raised a glass to Martin, wishing him a speedy recovery and looking forward to seeing him out on the bike again soon.

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33 miles clockwise from Henny Street

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising things.

Brian

Windmill Club photo album 2019

Windmill Club photo album 2018

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9 May 2019: A Rolls-Royce Birthday for Andrew

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Our very own Silver Shadow

Thursday morning saw eight Windmillers – Brian, Bruce, Deborah, Ken, Maurice, Roger, Sandra, plus birthday boy, Andrew – gathering in the car park of the Fleur de Lys.

Maurice had planned a special treat – a tour of P&A Wood, the local Rolls-Royce dealership. With much anticipation we headed out of Widdington, down the hill towards Henham and thence to Great Easton to look at some fancy motor cars.

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We received a warm welcome at P&A Wood and they gave us the run of the place for as long as we liked. Wandering around the various workshops and showrooms, we were particularly taken with heritage models such as a 1912 Silver Ghost. A snip at £2 million, Maurice looked tempted but, alas, his barns are full.

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1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost – yours for a cool £2 million!

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Thankfully, the current range is more affordable, with some models going for as little as half a million quid. Once again, some were tempted but – could you fit a bike rack?

Having passed a very enjoyable hour, it was time to move on and, saddling up, we headed for  Thaxted where we pulled in for coffee (and cake for Deborah) at Parrishes. The stop was timely as, once inside, the heavens opened and there was a 20 minute downpour. Maurice’s timing is uncanny.

Back on the bikes, the sun came out to dry the roads and an hour or so later we arrived back at The Fleur where we were joined for lunch by Keith.20190509_140358Andrew bought the beers – and a bottle of wine to boot – top chap. Happy Birthday, old timer.43292Thanks, Maurice, for another great outing.

Brian

PS – There’s more photos in our 2019 album hereAnd our 2018 album is herePlease feel free to upload your own photos.