Four Score

Octogenarians are like buses: none for ages then two in the space of a month ! Ken will celebrate his milestone birthday on Saturday, but in the meantime he’d organised this Thursday’s hilly ride and birthday beers from the Crown, Little Walden.

The last ride we took from the Crown, ice was thick on the roads and the mercury hovered near zero. This time, the riders were greeted by considerably warmer and brighter conditions so it wasn’t surprising to see 15 riders on parade. Since journalistic fact checking appears to be optional these days, I can claim (without checking) that its the first time this year that the entire peloton were wearing shorts.

Food orders placed, Ken, on his trusty non-e-bike, led the first of two groups away – only to return a minute later to lock his car then charge off again after his group.

It being the nature of the Crown’s location, the hill up to Hadstock common invariably features in any ride starting from there. As a wide open elevated plateau, its not surprising that Hadstock common was the home of RAF Little Walden / USAAF Station 165 during WW2.

After tackling a few of quiet lanes East of Saffron Walden we congregated at the Bonnefirebox cafe, Wimbish for coffee and cake. This is a new venue for the club and a welcome addition. From here, the route turned to the West of Saffron Walden – after negotiating a particularly congested Newport high street.

Passing the Axe and Compasses in Arkesden, it was good to see much progress being made to the fire damaged building and thatched roof. Unfortunately, it won’t be open in time for the Women’s pro peloton to drop in for a pint tomorrow on their ‘Ride London Classique’ UCI world tour event. In fact, Ken’s route traced a good section of their route – albeit in reverse.

We finally crested the aptly named ‘Windmill Hill’ before the run back into Saffron Walden. Here, mapping software was blamed for the variety of routes taken through the town until all eventually made it onto the Little Walden road and hence the pub.

Once at the pub, it was excellent beer directly from the cask and fine food plus the obligatory rendering “Happy Birthday to yoooooo”. Many thanks to Ken for an incident free, albeit hilly, ride.

Ken, Howard, Ric, Geoff, Martin B, Andrew, Rod, Alan. Brian, Iain, Jeremy, Paul, Maurice, Martin W, Graham.



This Thursday’s ride saw a recent record 18 Windmillers on parade. A warm welcome to Paul, on his first outing with the group and welcome back Howard. The high turn out was no doubt influenced by the extensive Thai menu at the Navigators, Little Shelford; the dry and warm(ish) forecast; the long sections of dedicated cycle paths and the nearly pan flat course profile. In fact so flat was the profile, Charles was tempted into eschewing his ebike for his old faithful, normally aspirated Giant bike (but more on that later).

Brian had devised a devious 53km route up through the East side of Cambridge and back through the West side, maximising the use of cycle paths and cycle routes and minimising the use of of the city roads. A pleasure to ride but a real challenge to follow the twists and turns thereof ! Thankfully most Windmillers come equipped with electronic navigation these days and any wrong turning were quickly corrected. The stiff breeze on the day was from the East and didn’t hamper our progress on the largely North-South route.

Although mostly on paths, it was still deemed prudent to split into three equal groups. In time honoured fashion, the first ‘equal’ group set off with 7 riders, the second with 6 and the third with 5. Hmmmm.

Cambridge’s guided busway is (or was) the longest guided busway in the world and has two main branches. The Northern busway uses the course of the former Cambridge and Huntingdon railway and the Southern section uses part of the former Oxford Varsity Line. Although the utility and cost of the busway divided local opinion at the time, a total of 2,500,000 trips were made in the first year of operation which was 40% higher than the predicted figure. What is not in dispute is the utility of the busway to cyclists and pedestrians alike, who can enjoy munching kilometre after kilometre on a great surface almost risk free (not withstanding there has been the very occasional fatality involving cyclists and buses). Brian’s route made extensive use of both branches of the busway to ensure that brisk progress was made on the first leg of our route and we were soon clear of the city and heading for fen country.

A brief detour via Rampton and we were on course for the Auction House cafe in Willingham. Willingham Auctions was established in 1959, and ran as a popular Auctioneers and Estate Agents for 25 years. It was reopened in 1994. The café is now a justifiably popular part of the site. Somewhat delayed for coffee, however, was the second group on the road due to an unfortunate puncture to Charles’ bike. Not having his usual e-bike meant that his full bag of bike spare paraphernalia and electronic gadgetry wasn’t there when it was needed and the puncture took a long time to fix ! By the time we were finally all assembled for coffee, the sun was out and we could all relax in the courtyard enjoying the warmth – just as well as the sudden influx of 19 riders had put the café into temporary overload and drinks and cakes were a while in arriving !

The enforced extended break allowed us to review our clothing choice in the sunshine and multiple windproof hi-vis layers and thermal baselayers were duly stowed away.

The return leg took us in the vicinity of the popular Byron’s pool near Grantchester. Lord Byron himself (‘Don Juan’ dude and father of Ada Lovelace) is reputed to have used the pool for swimming. These days it is a popular nature reserve. The Rivers Bourne, Rhee, Cam and Granta all converge just upstream of the pool.

The Navigator has long had a reputation for fine Thai food and good beer but it hasn’t been a Windmill regular haunt (maybe until now) – it didn’t disappoint. Despite the large number of us, food and drink was efficiently delivered and efficiently consumed. Another great ride.

And the blog title ? Thai for: “turned out nice again”. The ‘crew’: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Ken, Martin B, Martin W, Maurice, Paul, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon.


Sausages all the way down

Braughing is internationally famous in Hertfordshire and Essex for its Sausages. In 1954 Douglas White and his wife Anna made their first Braughing Sausages which proved to be instantly popular. The claim is that the recipe has remained the same since then and that the sausages are still made using traditional methods – albeit not now in Braughing, but Newmarket two counties away. On average 30,000 Braughing branded sausages are sold each week.

Its not sausages all the way down, though. Braughing’s history dates back to the Iron age – it was the site of the largest ‘Celtic’ mint discovered in Europe. There were also significant Roman and Anglo Saxon settlements here.

There used to be a station on the Great Eastern Railway Buntingford branch, which closed in 1964. In 1953, the station featured in the comedy film ‘Happy Ever After’ with the late David Niven and George Cole. The site of the station was just visible from our ride and appears now to be part of a full size hobby train set. Also sadly lost to the village, only a couple of years ago, is the delightful H & N Jones Grocers and Post Office.

Happily the village still supports the grade 1 listed church of St Mary and no fewer than three pubs. One of these pubs is a popular club haunt, The Golden Fleece, and it was from here that 11 riders gathered for today’s ride. Maurice’s route was an old favourite taking in quiet Hertfordshire lanes (filthy and muddy after heavy overnight rain) and the multi use tow path alongside the River Lea Navigation canal between Hertford and Ware. Or at least that was the plan. Maurice’s group decided to miss a section of the path to avoid the puddles, which left Deborah (dallying to watch the abundant bird life at Amwell Nature reserve) temporarily stranded without a group. No crisis in the end, though, and all were reunited at Ware Cafe for mid ride refreshments, taken in a brief bout of warm sunshine.

We have another puncture prize contender ! Actually, given the state of the roads, only one puncture was not bad going but that was no consolation to Rach, who’s puncture it was. Why is it that apparently premium inner tubes aren’t supplied with the valve cores firmly locked in place ? Even if they deign to stay in place when the bike pump is disconnected (they often don’t), they can work slightly loose on the road causing a slow loss of pressure. Such was Rach’s experience for most of the ride. Luckily Tom managed to flag down someone with some pliers to enable a working fix to be made which lasted nearly, but not quite, back to the pub. TOP TIP: If you have spare inner tubes featuring removable valve cores, tighten the cores up with some long nosed pliers before you need to use them.

All back at the pub having miraculously dodged the heavy showers, it was sausage baguettes (Braughing sausages, naturally) for many of the riders.

And, for the record, the riders were: Deborah, Rach, Jennie, Maurice, Simon, Roger, Geoff, Graham, Martin II, Tom and Nigel.


Life is Full of Ups and Downs

Heath Cafe pre ride coffee (and breakfast for those that wished)

Therfield Heath (not Royston Heath as I’d once thought it was called) is an SSSI of 170 hectares (420 acres) of chalk heathland to the West of Royston. The chalk was formed in the Cretaceous period (65 – 95 million years ago) and uplifted during the Alpine Orogeny then subsequently eroded by melt water from ice sheets from the Anglian ice age. The highest point of the Heath is Therfield Hill which reaches 168 m, the highest point for nearly 20km in every direction.

During World War II, the Heath was used as a prisoner of war camp. Originally the camp held 300 Italian prisoners later replaced by many more German POWs. Prisoners were put to work on the farms and – more pertenant to we cyclists – road building and maintenance. If only someone would do some road maintainance now !

One such road gains nearly 100m of elevation up the edge of the Heath to the village of Therfield itself. Rod, in his benelonence, started this ride from the Heath Cafe and took us straight up this hill – the first of five categorised climbs on the route according to Garmin.

Atop Reed Joint after the first bout of climbing

At this point, we should welcome back to the UK the Professor, Simon, fresh home from his two month cycle free sabbatical in Costa Rica and Guatamala. The road condition here might seem similar to Guatamala but the fresh NE breeze and the toughest route we’ve done for a while came as a shock to the system. One person for whom the conditions shouldn’t have been a surprise was Victor, but he still bravely (or stupidly) turned out in shorts again ! Hope you’ve both recovered from tired legs and frozen kneecaps respectively.

Victor ‘the knees’
The Professor and mill

Half way into the ride, Poppys Barn tea room was busy on arrival. Luckily Rod had had the foresight to reserve a table in advance so it was warming coffees all round before setting off on the still hilly return leg. On the way back we stopped briefly at THE windmill at Great Chishill – the windmill from which the club derives its name (One of 7 surviving open trestle mills, built in 1819). A short series of ups and downs led back to Royston, then through the town and back to the Heath Cafe. The excellent pre-ordered lunches arrived in short order and were enjoyed by all on parade along with some much needed restorative beers. Many thanks to the organiser, Rod.


Finally, for the record (manual pedal power acknowledged first on this occasion, due to the hilly effort involved): Andrew, Roger, Victor, Simon, Brian, Jeremy, Graham, Alan, eGeoff, eRod and (collected en route from Barkway) eMaurice.


Tour de South Cambridgeshire Villages

As a philosophical question: If a Windmiller falls off on the way to the ride and no one is around to hear it, does it count towards ride statistics? After last week’s very much witnessed involuntary diesel induced dismounts, Alan’s pre ride mud induced dismount was unwitnessed but was nevertheless severe enough to force a premature abandonment and a return home for a hot bath – or at least it would have done if the luckless Alan had working heating and hot water ! One ‘incident’ that does count towards ride statistics was Brian’s rear wheel puncture close (but not close enough) to the sanctuary of the pub near the end of the ride.

In fact it became increasingly difficult as the morning went on to keep tabs on who was with us and who wasn’t: Graham hadn’t arrived in time for the pre ride gathering, arriving just at the start. Ken was collected in Newton but returned home early, Charles left the peloton early as did the somewhat sore Alan. In the end only five of us remained for lunch at the Three Horseshoes.

And so to the ride, once again devised by Jeremy. The previous blog I wrote started with the words, “It might have been above freezing, but it was still chilly, with grey skies and a keen northerly breeze.” Looks like I can reuse those words for last Thursday’s Tour de South Cambridgeshire villages. Stapleford, Great Shelford, Little Shelford, Newton, Harston, Foxton, Fowlmere, Chrishall Grange, Ickleton (where hats were ‘doffed’ outside the Old Vicarage), Hinxton, Duxford, Whittlesford, Sawston, Pampisford, Great Abington, Little Abington, Babraham were all visited en route ! As the number of riders waxed and wained, the peloton split and regrouped along the way as we wended our way along a mixture of lanes, cycle paths and even bridleways. Coffee and cakes at the excellent cafe 19 community centre in Duxford was one of the few occasions when the whole ride was together !

For those wondering about the concrete North and South roads in Great Abbington: “In the depression before the Second World War the Land Settlement Association set up a site on the southern side of Great Abington with over sixty houses and plots of land for unemployed miners mainly from the coalfields in Yorkshire and Durham. This estate now comprises privately owned properties and very few of the holdings are still used for horticulture.”

Participants for all or part of the ride were: Deborah, Jeremy, Brian, Roger, Rod, Nigel, Charles, Alan, Graham and Ken.

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.


“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.


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


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.


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

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.


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 !