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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