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Biking Brummie Brian’s Bostin’ Birthday Beers

The day after Burns night above Freezing At Last !

It might have been above freezing, but it was still chilly, with grey skies and a keen northerly breeze. Furthermore, as a legacy from the recent cold snap, plentiful icy patches still lingered on the quieter roads.

Despite all of this , eleven riders braved the elemements to arrive at the Red Lion in Great Sampford – tempted no doubt by the fine Italian cuisine on offer for lunch (or could it have been the promise of Birthday Beers?). Actually twelve turned up but our newest member, Con, had had a “Doh” moment that morning and had arrived sans helmet and so couldn’t ride with us. Happily he was over any embarassment come lunch time and dutifully joined us for lunch.

Our route, initially downwind, headed to the outskirts of Finchingfield before heading North towards Steeple Bumpstead into the nagging headwind. In an attempt to stay warm, group discipline soon fragmented, with groups of 3 and 4 riders scattered along the route.

Coffee and Hot Chocolate and Cake at Tarkas was most welcome, despite the short main road section, then onto the slightly hillier section of the ride through to Ashdon and finally the downwind run back to the pub. Thanks once again for the beers, Brian, and a belated happy birthday.

Riders: Deborah, Rach, Hazel, Rod, Tom, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Victor, Martin II, Graham plus Con, Maurice and Iain for lunch.

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“V” for Victor’s Birthday

This was the first Windmill ride of the year and it was well attended by 14 riders, no doubt encouraged by a forecast for a mainly dry day with double digit temperatures, albeit with a nagging SW breeze to contend with. Andrew had reported difficulties finding suitable lunch venues as pub staff were taking well earned post Christmas breaks. Luckily the Pheasant came to our rescue – now firmly back on the Windmillers’ local pub list.

First group non r-bikers about to give chase.

Being Great Chishill and the highest point in Cambridgeshire at a lofty 146m ASL, it was inevitably going to be a down hill start. Having duly digested the recent club missive on e bike etiquette, all of today’s e-bikers whizzed off ahead in the first of two groups on the road, with 4 non e-bikes in tow. The remaining 6 non e-bikes took up the pursuit 5 minutes later .

The roads were a bit wet and muddy from rain earlier in the week, but in truth conditions were very good for us as we headed out past Reed and on towards Buntingford where the groups met up for coffee, cakes and a chin wag. The weather was mild enough for people to take advantage of outside seating – 14 cyclists do a good job of filling a cafe !

Luckily warm enough to sit outside the cafe.

An uneventful and mainly downwind ride took us back via Hare Street, Meesden, Duddenhoe End and Chrishall.

I think I must have been unlucky in recent weeks to have missed out on birthday beers. This week, however, I was in luck as Victor owned up to a Birthday last week and kindly (and dutifully) bought a large round of beers – for which he received the traditional off key rendering of “happy birthday to you” from those present. Many happy returns and many thanks.

Enjoying birthday beers

For the record, the register was: Andrew, Deborah, Sandra, Jeremy, Graham,Ric,Alan,Victor, Tom, Nigel, Maurice, Charles, Iain, Rod with Brian joining for free beer, sorry lunch.

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December Contrasts

What a difference a week makes ! Last week the country was in the grip of freezing temperatures with snow and ice lying, unrideable, across untreated roads. As a consequence, the scheduled ride on the 15th December, from the Hare and Hounds in Harlton, was first shortened and then cancelled altogether. Much kudos to Jeremy who still rode across to Harlton and completed the treated sections of the shortened route. Graham and Brian joined him at the pub for lunch.

This week, all traces of snow and ice had disappeared thanks to some persistent drizzle and double digit temperatures. On the strength of this, and a pan flat course, nine riders were tempted by Jeremy’s route starting from Stapleford.

Our outbound route mainly followed an excellent network of cycle paths through the city and out along the river to Waterbeach and Landbeach. Last time we rode these paths, we were following the “Our Place in Space” sculpture trail – this time round, all the planets had been removed.

By the time we reached the edge of Milton Country Park, the drizzle was starting to take its toll and we were ready for a warming drink.

We hadn’t reckoned on the friendly house owner with his collection of burst football plant pots and other pieces of garden art which he insisted on showing us at length.

Man with football plant pots an Barbie-Q

Finally on our way through the park, we arrived for warming drinks at the Country Park cafe. Black Forest Hot Chocolate highly recommended !

Black Forest Gateau Hot Chocolate – yummy !

Back on the tracks and trails through the city, Granchester and Trumpington passing, en route, the famous Kings College Chapel founded by Henry VI in 1441 (scaffolding and BBC sound recording lorry in situ). The only slight “drama” on the return leg was provided by Deborah and Graham, who managed to take a wrong turn and temporarily lost the group.

Excellent food and beer at the Three Horseshoes, where Maurice met up with the riders.

For the record, the riders were Deborah, Jeremy, Iain, Roger, Rod, Tom, Andrew, Geoff and Graham

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Barton Hills

Thursday 18th August.

Barton Hills from near Hexton

The Barton Hills is an AONB which form the northern edge of the Chiltern hills. The northern escarpment is a demarcation between the hillier country to the south and the flatlands of Bedfordshire to the North – far more dramatic than the 100m or so height difference would suggest. This was the area covered by this week’s Windmill Club ride, a new area for many of the riders.

We started and finished at the Red Lion, Preston (Preston village just South of Hitchin, not THAT Preston). The Red Lion is the first example of a community-owned public house anywhere in the UK and Camra National finalist in 2019.

There was a windmill, honest

Nine riders set off on a fine warm, dry if slightly overcast day in the customary formation of ‘A team’ and ‘B team’, initially heading down to Whitwell – home of the famous Emily’s tea room (at least famous with cyclists). On this occasion, however, we didn’t stop but headed North towards Lilley Bottom past some decidedly sad looking water cress beds. More rain and running water definitely needed here. Following the valley road up went without incident (one windmill spotted away on the left).

At this point, whilst we took a breather, the B team’s man in orange, Alan, performed a slow motion feet-clipped-in-stationary-fall, cutting his knee in the process. Pressing on and ignoring the blood, we arrived at the fantastic viewpoint at Sharpenhoe Clappers.

B team
A team
Expert ministrations to Alan’s knee

After checking brakes and wheel nuts, it was very speedily downhill to Barton-Le-Clay where the first aid team at the chemist (old school – it was called a ‘chemist’, not a pharmacy) were delighted to have a real patient on which to ply their trade.

Barton was also the scene of the A team’s professor-in-residence, Simon, suffering a tyre failure with large splits opening in the tyre carcass. New tyres needed, we reckoned.

Tea and coffee was taken at the ridiculously quirky Country Matters (formerly Lavender Tea rooms). A setting straight from the 1950s. Proceeds from sales were going to a local charity collection so we negotiated the price of coffee and cake UP to £3 a head.

Country Matters
Coffee. Cheer up, Rod !

Having lost all that height, we inevitably had to regain it. This was on the up hill gravelly, rough and rutted Chiltern Cycleway where a few riders lost traction and had to walk a short way. Thankfully, normal tarmac order was soon restored and it was a fast run pack to the pub for beer and lunch.

Lunch !

Maurice came out to meet the riders (Sandra, Simon, Victor, Rod, Graham, Roger, Alan, Chris, Howard) for lunch. For once Sandra had the luxury of being able to cycle to and from the ride.

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Spring is Sprung…..

……. And the grass is riz
(I wonder where the birdies is ?)

After last week’s abandonment due to the threatened bad weather and the waterlogged roads (which still didn’t deter three Windmillers from taking to their bikes and it certainly didn’t deter the many more that turned up at the Cock Inn for lunch ! – I digress), it was business as usual this week. Maurice had laid on gorgeous spring weather for a jaunt round the quiet lanes of Suffolk.

Maurice, Howard, Sandra, Simon (recently returned from Tenerife), Jeremy, Tom, Geoff, Victor, Alan, Sandra and Charles pitched up at the ever welcoming Plough at Rede for coffee and to place food orders.

Simon back from Tenerife and ready to take up the yoke.

Graham turned up a few minutes after the scheduled start time complaining about bike mechanical issues and relieved that the team had waited for him before heading off.

Pre ride coffee

The route passed mainly without incident except for Tom, cycling with the last group, who suffered a speedily repaired front wheel puncture on the normally traffic free road to Somerton.

Tom rapidly repairs his puncture

On this occasion we were passed by a couple of horse riders and a highly amused delivery driver who reported on having just passed our colleagues ahead, puffing and blowing loudly on Hartest Hill. To be fair, Hartest Hill is reputedly the steepest hill in Suffolk with sections of 12% gradient.

Hartest Hill

Easy riding from there to Lavenham, famous to all Harry Potter fans as the setting for Godric’s Hollow in the films. No coffee here, though. Instead it was back to the lanes with a gentle breeze now behind us in glorious sunshine to the Rushbrook Arms. Here the majority partook of coffees in the late morning warmth (only one taker for beer, who shall remain nameless).

Coffee in the Spring Sunshine

Alms houses, Hawstead

The last short delightful section took us back to Rede and a warm welcome for lunch and ales. Lets hope for more Spring days like this one.

..and here’s the route
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West Wratting and Finchingfield

Well the weather did us proud again ! Floods and downpours earlier in the week were replaced by a brisk breeze and sunshine for this Thursday’s ride. Once again, the Chestnut Tree in West Wratting hosted. After coffee, the 13 riders split into two groups (Maurice, Alan, Howard, Suzanne, Charles, Ken and Ric in the A team, Andrew leading the B team of Lawrence, Roger, Graham, Geoff and Rod).

Happily the stiff breeze was mainly across the predominantly North – South course and didn’t prove too distracting. The A group managed to miss the cut through from Howards Lane in Horseheath and group B nearly caught up.

A timely photo stop by Lawrence and a hedgerow cutting induced puncture to Graham ensured that the A group once again managed to establish a healthy lead. After two (!) inner tubes for Graham’s front wheel and tyre brand advice duly delivered by Andrew, B group got to Finchingfield for coffee and cake just as the A group were heading off.

All managed to regroup at the Chestnut Tree, however, for the now familiar excellent beer and food.

The smaller cycling home contingent this week (Howard, Suzanne, Ric, Graham) finally had to contend with the breeze in their faces.

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3rd December 2020. Scotland 2, England 1

Thursday was forecast to be cold and wet and windy and so it turned out. Many Windmillers, who had been keen for the ride the evening before, suddenly found a pressing need to buff their candlesticks on the day.

Nevertheless, three intrepid riders, Alan, Mike and Graham (or more likely, the three riders with no silverware to polish) congregated at Simon’s in Littlebury Green and decided to ‘damn the torpedoes’ and go for it anyway. Simon had dutifully put the collection box out and a selection of beers for later, under a carefully tethered umbrella.

Three amigos

Riding as permitted group of 3, the excellent, if bumpy, course mercifully passed without incident – other than for the creeping coldness and dampness. Alan departed for home at Langley and Graham and Mike found some socially distanced solace in the warmth of Poppys Barn tearoom.

By the time they returned to Littlebury Green (with no intention of stopping for a cool beer), the collection box and beers had already been safely taken in !

Graham