18 August. Cakeless in Moulton

Another sunny Thursday morning saw seven Windmillers setting out from The Black Bull at Balsham for a tour of the lanes around the Cambs / Suffolk border. This was a reprise of the route we did back in April, only this time in a clockwise direction. We were dizzy with anticipation.

The Magnificent Seven – Maurice, Andrew, Vernon, Rick, Ken, Keith and Brian – stopped for an early coffee at The Packhorse Inn, Moulton. Imagine our disappointment, however, when having dismounted, parked up and settled ourselves comfortably in the garden, we were told, “Sorry, but we don’t do cake.” The coffee was fine but there wasn’t even a biscuit to dunk. Slim pickings indeed.

Resuming our ride, Andrew, caffeine-high but sugar-low, pulled up at a nearby Costcutter to procure a Mars Bar. Alas, with no means of deep frying the confection, our resident Scot was forced to eat it raw. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Otherwise, it was another glorious ride with Maurice once again leading us through some delightful countryside (though he did stop once to ask a postman the way) and we clocked up a very respectable 39 miles.

Arriving back in Balsham, Keith discovered his car alarm had been going off at regular intervals in the pub car park. Despite the racket, the manager of the Black Bull welcomed us back with an excellent Portuguese themed lunch and deep draughts from a new barrel of Woodford Wherry.

Keith, Ken, Andrew (proferring empty Mars Bar wrapper), Maurice, Vernon & Rick
Keith, Ken, Andrew (proferring empty Mars Bar wrapper), Maurice, Vernon & Rick
Screenshot 2016-08-18 at 16.48.48
39 miles, clockwise from Balsham

16 June: Dry as a Bone!

The weather forecast was for sunny intervals with occasional heavy rain; enough to deter all but the most hardened of Windmillers. So it was that Maurice, Andrew, John B, Ken, Rick, Rod and Brian headed out from Steeple Bumpstead to explore North Essex and the Suffolk borders.

We were all packing wet weather gear and Ken, fearing the worst, had left his shiny new machine at home, opting instead for his trusty old, all-season boneshaker. We were prepared!

But somehow – and with a lot of nimble, last minute route adjustments, Maurice, steered us some 37 miles around the showers and led us back – dry! – to the Fox & Hounds for lunch. How does he do it?

Along the way we stopped for coffee and cake at Buckley’s Tea Rooms in Castle Hedingham, where John B was seen – somewhat sheepishly – sipping an orange juice. And they say Greene King shares have had a turbulent week.

At this point, Rick, having already cycled an additional 20 miles to join us at the start, peeled off homewards while the rest of us continued on through Maplestead, Pebmarsh, Lamarsh, Henny Street (where we thoughtfully made it up to John by stopping for a quick one at The Swan), Middleton, Gestingthorpe and the Yeldhams, before heading back to Steeple Bumpstead for the Fox & Hound’s special combo of black pudding, bacon, asparagus & poached egg. A couple of beers later we were debating Brexit with the locals while the rain fell like stair rods outside. Ah, the English summer!

Lamarsh Church 1
Holy Innocents Church, Lamarsh
Holy innocents
Holy innocents
37 miles on 16 June 2016

9 June 2016: Steamed Up in Suffolk

1910 Stanley Steamer
1910 Stanley Steamer

So there we were sipping our coffees in the front room of The Bell Inn, Kersey, when a vintage car went by in a cloud of steam. Being a naturally inquisitive lot, we exited the pub sharpish and, following the steam clouds, found the owner topping up the boiler at the ford that straddles the village High Street. The 1910 Stanley Steamer was his pride and joy and he was more than happy to tell us all about it. Then with a cheery wave he hopped back in and drove off – more or less silently and at quite a lick – up the hill.

This was just one of the many high points on Thursday’s ride, with Ken, Vernon, Keith, John B, Maurice and Brian enjoying a very pleasant run from Long Melford to Acton, Boxford, beautiful Kersey and then on through Chelsworth before stopping for a long lunch at The Swan, Lavenham. 29 miles in all.

Five go wild in Kersey!
Five go wild in Kersey

Long Melford 9June2016

From Wikipedia:

Perhaps the best-known and best-selling steam car was the Stanley Steamer, produced from 1896 to 1924. Between 1899 and 1905, Stanley outsold all gasoline-powered cars, and was second only to the electric cars of the Columbia Automobile Company in the US. It used a compact fire-tube boiler to power a simple double-acting two-cylinder engine. Because of the phenomenal torque available at all engine speeds, the steam car’s engine was typically geared directly to the rear axle, with no clutch or variable speed transmission required. Until 1914, Stanley steam cars vented their exhaust steam directly to the atmosphere, necessitating frequent refilling of the water tank; after 1914, all Stanleys were fitted with a condenser, which considerably reduced their water consumption.

In 1906 the Land Speed Record was broken by a Stanley steam car, piloted by Fred Marriott, which achieved 127 mph (204 km/h) at Ormond Beach, Florida. This annual week-long “Speed Week” was the forerunner of today’s Daytona 500. This record was not exceeded by any car until 1910.


Drained in the Fens

Tom, ready for the off
Tom, ready for the off

Windmillers Tom & Brian took part in last Sunday’s Tour of Cambridgeshire; an 80 mile run catering for everyone from elite racers to, well, Windmillers like us.

Waiting for the off at the Peterborough Showground, we were just a little apprehensive having rarely pedalled more than 40 miles with Maurice and the gang on our regular Thursday outings. But here we were, Tom in his Marmite outfit and Brian in tomato red, surrounded by fit looking types on fancy machines all talking about about their last enduro race. These guys didn’t look like they were going to stop for a coffee.

The scale of the operation was impressive; 8000 riders had to be registered, our bikes electronically tagged, 80 miles of roads closed to traffic and feeding stations set up along the way ready to dole out industrial quantities of sausage rolls, energy bars, bananas and bottled water. And we were to be shepherded around the Fens by a posse of motorcycle outriders from the National Escort Group.

The first few miles saw some hairy moments. There’s not much room for error with that many riders packed together on winding country lanes and, sure enough, we saw some casualties keeping the paramedics busy. But once out in the Fens we started to relax and enjoy ourselves. The sunshine, the open vistas, the camaraderie; bowling along roads completely free of cars was a real joy.

And with their roads closed to traffic, the locals in the villages really were a captive audience, enjoying beers in the sunshine while, alarmingly, their kids were in the road attempting high fives with cyclists. “C’mon Marmite!” they yelled at Tom.

We also observed that Fenlanders don’t seem to have much regard for Europe. Vote Leave posters were everywhere; we didn’t see a single one for Remain.

We took the first 40 miles at quite a clip. By 50 miles, however, Brian was flagging, whereas Tom was still going strong, encouraged by the vision just ahead who we dubbed Miss Gold. She knows who she is.

The final 10 miles back to the Showground were tough going but we turned in a respectable time of 5½ hours; not bad for dads, we thought.

We also have a healthy respect for the Windmillers recently returned from Scotland. We may have had a long day in the saddle – but they had the additional challenge of steep inclines, loaded panniers and whisky hangovers.

Would we do it again next year? Maybe; but let’s first get over the persistent numbness in our rear ends.

Tom & Brian: knackered & numb bum
Tom & Brian: aka Knackered & Numb Bum

24 March: Riding to Rickling

Windmillers 24 Mar 2016
It goes without saying that we regard The Pheasant as our home from home, the mothership to which we return after a hard day’s pedalling. There’s always a warm welcome from Simon and Ollie who tactfully turn a blind eye to our mud spattered entrance at lunchtime.
This Thursday was no exception as John T, John B, Rick, Keith, Ken, Andrew and Brian returned to Great Chishill having clocked up 32 miles, holding up the traffic in Nuthampstead, Anstey, Furneaux Pelham, Manuden, Rickling, Arkesden, Duddenhoe End and all points in between. The final climb up the hill to the Pheasant was as demanding as ever but there were no dismounts and the beer tasted all the better for our efforts.
 Route 24 Mar 2016
PS: Have you seen today’s Cambridge News front page headline? A topic for lively debate at The Pheasant.