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21 September. Last of the summer romance. 21 miles.

Was this, the last day of summer in 2020 (if you believe that the Autumn Equinox marks the first day of Autumn), the reason why romance remained in the air for a second Monday running? Not only did Maurice plan the route to ensure that we went by the same field of flowers but he picked some flowers together with Martin and they were then snapped by Deborah and Simon plighting their troth! Very worrying indeed, until it became apparent that both posies of flowers were for their wives and not each other. Gasps of relief all round!

Starting once again from The Red Cow at Chrishall, nine Windmillers set off on a delightful cruise around the lanes, the others being Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Deborah, Nick and also Lindsay who it was a pleasure to see again. It was also great to have Simon rejoin us only a few weeks after his hernia op and to see him charging up hills. This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/79fc91e1b153e08b47b05e5ab86bf3cc

Although this was the last day of summer it didn’t really feel like it – it was very warm, sunny and quite balmy when we got back to The Red Cow. What a good ending to one of the strangest summers ever experienced, and a pleasant contrast to daily news about Covid-19. It wasn’t long, however, before we lost Lindsay who took a right towards Great Chishill at the bottom of the hill from Chrishall, down which the other eight went at high speed, but hubby Andrew and Deborah went back to find her and we all reconvened at Langley Upper Green.

‘Are you receiving me? Over.’ Maurice attempting to trace the missing three Windmillers.

Passing The Bull at Lower Langley, which we haven’t visited for a while, we passed close to Nick’s house and then through to Brent Pelham and down to a gravel strewn, but dry, Violet’s Lane and back up to Washall Green. (Violet’s Lane is generally avoided in the winter as it floods at the bottom end and can be icy.)

Pausing for a breather near Washall Green

At Starlings Green the prolific plum tree was devoid of plums. We were probably just a bit too late although there were suspicions raised that Andrew had got there before us. But then he discovered it last year, so fair enough.

Passing Stickling Green and skirting Clavering, it wasn’t long before we were picking flowers again near Duddenhoe End. This time, Simon and Martin dived in first but Simon took a distinctly scientific approach by getting up close with his camera and listening intently to the sound of buzzing bees, and impressed too at the environmental contribution this farmer was making.

Botanically beautiful pics from Simon.

Meanwhile Martin got picking another bunch of flowers for Deborah, who was a short way back with Lindsay, and was ordered by Rod to get down on one knee to present them. But then he had to dash back to pick a second bunch for Penny, who had very much enjoyed receiving last week’s bunch, whilst Maurice did the same for Lyn.

Andrew and Lindsay took a short cut back to The Red Cow whilst the others returned via Elmdon and we all enjoyed refreshments outside, Lawrence having to leave first as it was bedtime story time by Zoom for one of his grandchildren.

Well done to Simon for getting ride-fit again so quickly and for taking some pics. And thanks to Maurice for planning the romantic route and Andrew for organising us.

Martin

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17 September. Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside. 37 miles.

Starting from the Fore Street Pay and Display Car Park in Framlingham (phew, got that mouthful out of the way safely), just down the road from the Crown Hotel where some had congregated for coffee beforehand, two groups of Windmillers set off in the direction of Aldeburgh. Five in each group was the plan but Maurice shot off at speed (such is the acceleration of an e-bike) accompanied in Group A by Ken, Lawrence and Howard whilst Group B was led by Andrew with Deborah, Mike, Alan, Graham and Martin in line astern.

The route was familiar for some, through very quiet and beautiful Suffolk lanes, but it was just as well that Group B had a couple of GPXers with them, Graham and Martin, as Group A went out of sight quite soon. The problem with GPX files, however, is that they are never wrong – the old saying of garbage in, garbage out still applies – with the result that Group B faithfully followed the route but just before Knodishall discovered that it took them down a sandy track, through a farmyard, under the pylons from Sizewell and then back on the tarmac. Group A, meanwhile, were relying on Maurice’s paper map which is never wrong!

This is where we went:

Entering Thorpeness, Group B were surprised to find Group A on the green by the Meare. Were they admiring the group of vintage Rudge motorbikes we wondered? Or was that a Windmiller’s bike upturned and being attended to? It was indeed Lawrence’s rear disc brake that was not working correctly and despite various adjustments it stubbornly refused to cooperate. Nothing for it but press on and have another go over a coffee in Aldeburgh.

Windmilling around in Thorpeness whilst Lawrence’s bike is attended to
Some fine Rudge motorbikes were on disolay. Rudge also made high quality pedal bikes.

The next stop was Aldeburgh for coffee but Group B stopped to admire the Maggi Hambling scallop sculpture on the beach, which created such a hoo-ha amongst the locals when it was first commissioned and installed in 2003, who considered it spoilt a lovely stretch of open beach. But the general view now, certainly amongst Group B, is that it enhances the beach and has withstood both vandalism and gale force winds without flinching.

Martin and Deborah admiring Maggi Hamblin’s scallop sculpture on Aldeburgh beach
The sculpture was set up to commemorate Benjamin Britten and displays a quote from Britten’s Peter Grimes ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’.

Aldeburgh was heaving with visitors and so coffee was not easy to come by. But whilst some were queuing for their lunchtime baps at a baker’s shop Mike came to the rescue and invited everyone for coffee in his spacious garden at his and Pat’s house near the church. And what a glorious place it turned out to be, not to mention coffee worthy of the best barista. And Deborah voted the jam that Mike and Pat produced to accompany her croissant as being 10 out of 10.

Coffee in Mike and Pat’s garden
Work re-commencing on Lawrence’s bike, this time with success

By the time we set off at noon on the downwind leg back to Framlingham, some had already eaten their fresh warm baps whilst the others were looking forward to a picnic lunch at Snape. The route was a Maurice special – a left after Aldeburgh Golf Club and then along a sandy track, a boardwalk through wetlands and a forest path all the way to Snape, with a diversion at the end through a wood and then along the river bank to the Maltings. And with a high tide to greet us, the views were quite stupendous.

Picnicing at Snape

Maurice had worked up a thirst by this time and so he headed off to The Ship at Blaxhall to see if it was open. Indeed it was and so after the picnic the others joined him there and some stayed for a pint whilst others started to make their way back, stopping in Easton on the way to get creative, photographically, with the famous crinkle crankle wall, thought to be to longest in England:

The crinkle crankle wall in Easton. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crinkle_crankle_wall

Maurice, Mike and Martin, energised after a pint, set off some time later and despite a stop to admire the view over a hedge caught the others up as they were leaving the Fore Street car park. Thus ended a fabulous ride.

Thanks go to Maurice for planning the route, even the scenic sandy route at Knodishall, Andrew for organising us, Mike and Pat for their kind hospitality and all the photographers who contributed pics.

Martin

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14 September. Romance in the air. 17 miles.

Valentines’ Day is a long way off but Deborah and Martin looked like they were getting romantic on this lovely summer’s evening when Deborah suddenly jumped off her bike and dived into wild flowers sown at the edge of a field near Duddenhoe End, hotly pursued by Martin. And what a splendid assortment of flowers they were, humming with the sound of bees and insects amongst them – a great example of what environmentally friendly farmers can achieve if they put their minds to it. Well done to the farmer concerned.

The border of flowers surrounding a large field
Deborah the flower girl
Martin being all lovey dovey with a posey of flowers…..
….whilst the others looked on in astonishment at what was going on, Andrew being creased up.

But poor Deborah had a jilted look on her face when Martin said the posey was not for her but for his missus, Penny, who displayed them in the neat little vase above when Martin got home. There were Asters, Marigolds, Anemones and several others that a botanist such as Ric might be able to identify.

All this took place towards the end of a very pleasant ride around the lanes, starting and finishing at The Red Cow in Chrishall. Seven Windmillers set forth – Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Charles, Lawrence, Nick and Martin. Nick had come over from Meesden and so he peeled off at Langley Lower Green whilst the remaining six continued towards Clavering on a very warm and sunny evening – one of the best.

Stopping for a breather in Clavering

Back at The Red Cow it was good to be joined by Simon O and to hear his tales of tractor driving, where it seems there is nothing to do these days but let the GPS steer the tractor whilst the driver reads the Financial Times. He also told us about his grand daughter’s first day at school which resulted in her returning home enquiring about a certain part of the male anatomy. The things they teach kids at such an early age these days!

Enjoying a pint at The Red Cow

This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/c297907e678fb3dac5177bdf84cd00b9

Thanks as always to Maurice for planning the route and to Andrew for his organisation.

Martin

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10 September. Down by the River Blackwater. 35 miles.

What a contrast with almost a year ago when this ride was first planned but then cancelled due to inclement weather. Instead we had almost perfect conditions for a cycle ride – non-stop sunshine after a slightly cool start, little wind and pleasantly warm on the return leg.

Starting from a lovely pub, The Square and Compasses, in Fuller Street, south of Braintree in the midst of quiet Essex lanes, 12 Windmillers set off in two groups, suitably equipped with GPX files on their devices. But Maurice took the wise precaution of bringing along a paper map too which proved to be quite useful towards the end of his ride………….

Group A was led by Martin, who devised the route using mainly National Cycle Network routes, and he was accompanied by Maurice, Charles, Alan, Chris and Mike. Group B was led by Rod and his faithful followers were Andrew, Ken, Deborah, Howard and Geoff (who had a back up GPX just in case). At a couple of points Group A took wrong turnings only to watch Group B wizz past on the correct route – so much for Group A’s ability to follow a GPX route, correction Martin’s ability, who should have known better as he had done a recce of the route a year ago.

Except for a housing estate in Witham the route took us along delightfully quiet and often narrow winding lanes with far reaching views of the Essex countryside, and hills were few and far between. Exiting Witham, where Martin took one of his wrong turnings, resulted in cries of ‘Where’s Maurice?’ once Group A had caught up with Group B. So we waited and waited but then spotted a smiling Maurice approaching us. Why was he smiling so broadly? It soon became clear that the wrong turning proved to be to Maurice’s financial advantage as he spotted a £20 note lying on the ground which he just had to stop and pick up, by which time the traffic lights were against him. But this being deepest Essex, had the note just been printed locally we wondered?

Maurice proudly displaying his £20 note, which he generously offered to donate to our charity funds, if it was legal tender

It wasn’t long before we were heading down towards the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin, a familiar sight for Maurice who used to keep his boat further down the Blackwater at Maylandsea and often sailed it to Heybridge Basin and Maldon. It was low tide and so the view was mainly of black estuary mud rather than black water but gorgeous all the same.

Relaxing on the quay at Heybridge Basin. Some brought coffee with them in case the Tiptree Tea Room was busy but a take-away window produced coffee quickly for others.

The return leg commenced with a trip up the side of the River Chelmer / Blackwater Navigation Canal containing many moored craft including a lifeboat. This consisted of a narrow towpath / bike path / footpath which required careful bike navigation to avoid falling in or knocking a pedestrian in. But both Groups made it safely into Maldon avoiding any roads and ending up on the banks of the muddy Blackwater as it flowed into the estuary. Then it was a short trip down the Blackwater before turning up into the centre of Maldon, an attractive town hosting an excellent brewery, and exiting on the north side for the final miles back through beautiful undulating countryside. Group A found this to be peaceful whilst Group B experienced some road rage from an angry lady driver and a fast moving tractor.

Entering the pretty village of Terling, Martin stopped to admire the view which resulted in Maurice and Howard taking the wrong road out of the village but thanks to Maurice’s paper map they found their way back to the pub without any great delay.

After a warm welcome at the Square and Compasses and an excellent lunch, washed down with thirst quenching JHB from the Oakham Brewery, the main drama of the day suddenly unfolded when Mike staggered to his feet saying he had to find a doctor / hospital quickly. It turned out that his pedal had hit a shin bone which resulted in a broken blood vessel which quickly grew to the size of a tennis ball. Directions were given to the local hospital in Chelmsford but Deborah recognised the pain Mike was in and offered to drive him there. Well done Deborah! A medal for sure at the Christmas lunch. The good news since is that the swelling subsided and that the doc thought there was every chance that Mike would be able to go climbing in the Alps as planned within a couple of days. That’s an extreme Windmiller for you!

This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/2b4bf5a3067a663147bfe1c0a575e4e3

Thanks to all for taking part and to Andrew for getting us to the starting line.

Martin

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7 September. Where do you take a sick hornet?

To a waspital of course!

So was it a hornet or a wasp that stung Andrew badly last Thursday? We’ll never know but he was clearly not a happy bunny 24 hours after the event.

Nasty sting, but lucky not to have swallowed the horny wasp.

By Monday the swelling had subsided and he was his usual cheery self when out on a 19 mile ride around the lanes with Maurice, Rod, Charles, Alan and Martin:

Happy again.

Starting from The Red Cow at Chrishall at 4.30pm, Maurice led the way around our quiet autumnal lanes taking in Shaftenhoe End, Nuthampstead (giving Bridget a wave as we passed her house), Anstey (giving Andrew a shout), Brent Pelham, Meesden, Langley Upper Green and Duddenhoe End, before enjoying a pint outside on our return, at which point the temperature began to drop quite quickly.

The Red Cow looking splendid
Two vain Windmillers admiring themselves in the mirror inside the porch of The Red Cow (or was Andrew checking his sting?)

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route and Andrew for getting us assembled.

Martin

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3 August. Hermit crab on the loose. 18 miles.

Ah ha. Now those look like they would make me a nice house in which to live….
But will this one fit me? I’ll give it a try.
Yes! It fits like a dream.
I’m as happy as a hermit crab can be in a corn field.

And so it was on this pleasant afternoon in early August that seven Windmillers led by Maurice and accompanied by Andrew, Rod, Simon, Charles, Alan and Martin came across the same field in Clavering that we saw a year or so ago. The wheat had just been cut with an old fashioned binder so that the straw could be used for thatching, but the drying stooks looked irresistible to Simon who suddenly came over with a huge desire to be a hermit crab, so in he climbed. He might have just fancied a new hair-do but either way he semed very pleased with the result.

The ride had started at The Red Cow in Chrishall and took in familiar quiet lanes to Elmdon, Littlebury Green, Arkesden, Clavering, Langley Lower Green and Duddenhoe End.

Stopping for a breather before descending to Arkesden
Looking back towards Littlebury Green

And this is where we went:

Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the ride.

Martin

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10 July. Rod’s delayed birthday ride. 33 miles.

To celebrate Rod’s delayed birthday due to the lockdown and also the opportunity to drive to a start point, ride in groups of 6 and have a socially distanced lunch in a familiar pub, Maurice devised a lovely 33 mile route starting and finishing at The Golden Fleece in Braughing.

Meeting at 9.00am to place our orders at The Golden Fleece was just like old times, except for the one way system through the pub and the large expanses of perspex, all done with great taste and efficiency by landlord Peter and his team. Outside there was a new deck covered by an awning which was reserved for use by the Windmill Club at lunchtime. All very smart and with the usual excellent beer and food too.

Accompanied by Andrew, Rod, Ken, Roger, Brian, Victor, Charles, Simon, Geoff, Jenny and Martin, Maurice led the way via Puckeridge, Perry Green, Stansted Abbots and Amwell Reserve to our usual coffee stop in Ware. It was great to have Victor with us after his recent bereavement with the death of his wife Rose. After our recent fund raising for Victor on behalf of Marie Curie, he very generously topped up the £440 we raised, by another £100, making £600 in all after the club had added a further £60 from funds.

This is where we went:

Bike ride 10 July 20

The roads were noticeably busier than in recent weeks, even the quiet lanes, and as we cycled alongside the towpaths of the River Lee there were many pedestrians too. The need to cycle harmoniously with other road / path users is something we need to focus on in the future, whilst also obeying any rules in place.

Some take the high road and some take the low road over Barwick Ford

Stopping in Perry Green outside Henry Moore’s studio and gardens gave us an opportunity for Charles to tell us of his time working for the Foundation for over 10 years from the mid-90s, starting as a finance / admin manager and finishing as the COO (and not the car park attendant as Andrew unkindly suggested). It was a period of great expansion for the Foundation, which is now recognised to be a world class centre for the study and enjoyment of sculpture.

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Charles pointing out where he worked at the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green 

Of course, two Windmillers (museum pieces Simon and Andrew) couldn’t resist demonstrating that modern sculpture was alive and well:

Simon and Andrew in modern sculpture mood at Perry Green

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Yes, the same cultural couple, this time practising singing the Marseillaise in advance of their trip to France next week with Lawrence and Martin

After coffee we headed along the towpath towards Hertford before wending our way back to The Golden Fleece through delightful lanes and enjoyed an excellent lunch. Rod very kindly bought the drinks and we all wished him a happy belated birthday. The good news is that several Windmillers owned up to have had lockdown birthdays and so there are a few more still to be celebrated.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route and to Andrew for organising us. Sadly, Graham had not been with us on account of having had an accident the previous weekend but we wish him well and hope to see him out again soon.

Martin

 

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22 June. Socially distanced in Simon’s bar. 19 miles.

Maurice devised a cunning route on this warm summer’s evening which involved a half way stop at Simon and Ollie’s house in Elmdon, where Simon had very kindly offered to show off his new outdoor bar to members of the Windmill Club. As a result, eight thirsty Windmillers gathered outside The Bull at Lower Langley for a 20 mile ride around the lanes, the intention being to call in there also at the end of the ride. So much for good intentions……………

This is where Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Deborah, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin  intended to go:

Lower Langley Elmdon circuit 22 June 2020

All went swimmingly as far as Elmdon, via Shaftenhoe End, Great Chishill and Heydon with no more than 3 or 4 in a group at any time. Simon and Ollie gave us a warm welcome as we sat in their lovely garden, suitably distanced,  admiring Simon’s new bar from which he generously dispensed beers and soft drinks whilst Ollie distributed nibbles. It was a jolly gathering and time just vanished as we chatted around the table, only to realise eventually that we would be much later than usual getting back to base.

Dragging ourselves away after thanking Simon and Ollie for their kind hospitality, we decided to shave off a mile or so by taking the newly surfaced path through Elmdon wood to Catmere End instead of looping around on the road.

Elmdon wood

Emerging at Catmere end provided another opportunity for a photocall in the evening sunshine:

Obeying the rules

On we went down Hill Bastardo but it was after that when things went a bit awry. The group split up heading towards Arkesden with Maurice out front and Rod bringing up the rear with Charles, but after waiting some time in Arkesden it was clear that something had gone wrong. So Maurice offered to whizz back on his e-bike to try to find Rod and Charles and in the meantime Martin entertained the others with his dove impressions, trying his best to communicate with a dove sitting overhead on a telephone wire, but wisely not directly overhead in case the dove disapproved of the mating call:

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Martin doing his dove impressions in Arkesden

Sadly, Rod and Charles had taken a right turn towards Dudddenhoe End and so Maurice missed them and ended up back on the Wendens Ambo road before all decided to make their way separately back to Lower Langley. By this time it was getting quite late and as The Bull had no real ale on offer, all decided to say farewell and head back home.

Thanks to Maurice for devising the route, Andrew for organising us and, once again, Simon and Ollie for their kind hospitality. We all thoroughly approved of Simon’s bar.

Martin

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18 June. Wimpole in all weathers. 30 miles.

With steady rain forecast for the early part of the day it was only the brave that set out early on this ride to Wimpole Hall. Maurice and Andrew waited until 10.00am and Martin, the Wimpole Wimp-of-the-day, left it until 12.15pm to set off, just as the bedraggled early starters were returning to Lawrence’s house for a wet beer. Some, including Brian, Tom and Chris, wisely opted out completely.

In all there was a healthy turnout of 13 Windmillers, the others being Graham, Deborah, Jenny, Lawrence, Ric, Rod, Charles, Simon T, Roger and Geoff. But due to the delayed start some only saw the occasional Windmiller passing by in the opposite direction.

Here is the planned route but in practice we all cut the corner at Arrington and proceeded directly through the grounds of Wimpole Hall on what is a National By-way (despite what Wimpole Hall might say):

Fowlmere Wimpole circuit

Martin’s ride was pleasantly dry throughout with increasing sunshine as he approached Wimpole in a clockwise direction which enabled him to take a photo from Croydon of a lovely view across to our familiar hills:

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View between Croydon and Arrington looking across to Barkway in the West, Great Chishill in the centre and Elmdon in the East

Roger announced later during the Zoom session that the same view was obliterated with rain when he cycled along the same road earlier.

The grounds of Wimpole Hall were quite busy with children particularly enjoying splashing about in the puddles. Deborah reports that the coffee shop was open for one of her and Jenny’s two coffees en route. The whereabouts of the second stop is unknown. Perhaps it was at Rod’s suggested farm stop in Croydon but it had shut up shop by the time Martin got there apparently due to a power cut.

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Wimpole Hall in the emerging sunshine

Other than Barrington Hill / Chapel Hill the route was devoid of anything difficult to climb and should be very pleasant to do again on 25 June when the weather is due to be hot and sunny.

Lawrence very kindly provided beer and refreshments at his house in Fowlmere and also these photos of members relaxing in his garden, and Graham mending a puncture which fortunately happened just as he finished the ride:

And by the time Martin got back for a beer at 3.15pm the garden was ablaze with sunshine:

Thanks also to Maurice for planning the route, Andrew for organising us and Graham for hosting the evening’s Zoom pub session.

Martin

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15 June. Feeling Bullish again. 21 miles.

Upper Langley or Lower Langley? That was the question on this warm summer’s evening as 8 Windmillers gathered once more for a socially distanced ride – 6 being the max allowed in one group under the current regs but, in practice, 8 spread out and so there was never more than 4 or so in a group at any time. So all above board!

As it happened, Andrew got an earful from a resident of Upper Langley for wishing to park outside their house and Deborah began to park near to where Simon and Martin had parked their cars before being advised to shift it down to the Bull at Lower Langley where Rod had parked and where Andrew decided to park too. Andrew and Rod then cycled back to Upper to meet up with Maurice, Nick, Charles, Simon and Martin before heading back to Lower to collect Deborah. Ah, the logistics of a Windmill ride take some beating at times!

Eventually, after Nick had re-mounted his bike after a stationary fall, none the worse for wear, we all set off in an anti-clockwise direction around a pleasant route that Maurice had devised:

Upper Langley circuit 15 June

Rod was tasked with being back marker / sweeper upper on his powerful e-bike and the group soon spread out over half a mile or more as we moved easily along in light winds towards Little Chishill. Then it was up to Nuthampstead past Bridget T’s house and through to Anstey, giving a shout to Keith as we passed near his house. It would be good to see him and also ‘Husky’ Andrew from Nuthampstead back out with us again now that the Corona virus lockdown has eased.

By this time we were well spread out with Maurice, Nick and Charles a long way ahead when Simon missed the turning to Great Hormead despite much hollering from Deborah, Andrew and Martin, ending up in Hare Street as a result. Martin then gave him the wrong directions for making his own way to Brent Pelham where he thought we might meet him again and so a U-turn was necessary by Simon whilst the others waited for him to reappear. The logistics of this ride were becoming memorable with Maurice calling to ask if we were all ok.

Eventually the tortoises met up with the hares outside our usual stopping place, Furneux Pelham church.

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Six of the best in Furneux Pelham

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The Rodd man out

And the second sign below describes how good it was to be out and about again on a Monday ride with the Windmill Club:

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The return leg via Brent Pelham, Meesden, where Nick peeled off, and Roast Green was uneventful until Simon attempted to start his car only to find the battery was flat. Finding the tow hook was difficult too and so instead of Martin giving him a tow we opted to call up Andrew who by that time was back at the Bull and who had his jump leads on board his Chelsea tractor, which came quickly to the rescue.

Charles headed for home in Chrishall having cycled to and from the start, clocking up around 30 miles in all – well done, Charles – whilst those remaining gathered outside the Bull for a well earned socially distanced beer consumed just off the pub premises, contributing to the bounce back of the local economy as they did so. Maurice also cycled to and from the start on his e-bike, clocking up 40 miles.

Thanks to Maurice for devising a great route and to Andrew for herding us.

Martin

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1 June. Off-road but on-track with Andrew

In June we are restricted to six for easing the boredom of lock-down. Not six gin and tonics a day, but groups of six riders for a club event. It was perfect then, when Andrew, Deborah, Geoff, Maurice, Rod and Simon accepted the challenge of an ‘off road’ route organised and planned by Andrew. With a three o’clock start it was warm but this was saved by a cooling breeze. Rod just made it to the starting gun after an abortive tele-medicine attempt, likewise Deborah, because that’s what we expect of her. After a month with practically no rain the ground was like concrete, the tracks were rough and anything loose on the bike was subject an extreme test; would it fall off. And fall off it did.

The tracks were mostly bridleways, which Andrew had learned during many years in the saddle. Now, I don’t know much about horses, certainly not when compared to some other members of the club. I do know from hard experience that standing at the front sometimes results in being bitten, but that standing at the back is even more dangerous. I have seen people sitting on top of them, but that seems ridiculously risky. Two meters off to the side was early practice in social distancing for me. I have noticed however, they have four legs and that these are positioned one at each corner. This gives them enviable stability on rough ground. Bikes on the other hand have just two points of contact with the earth and these are thin and round. Still riding on bridleways was going to be easy and fun. I just knew it.

We set off with every piece of the bike soon clattering. The flints shot out like bullets from the sides of the tyres. I was great. Soon Andrew stopped, his saddle-bag had rattled off and was now an extra brake on the back wheel. Then Maurice’s handle-bars shook loose. I think handle-bars are an underrated safety item. You can pay a fortune for a nice saddle-bag but people think any old handle-bars will do, best to bolt them on nice and tight. At every bump Rod’s bell gave out another tinkle. We only needed a chant of ‘bring out your dead’ to be just like the undertakers of old. Perhaps that’s not as funny right now as it once might have been.

This route is amazing. With long open sections across expansive hillsides and equally long green tunnels filled with dappled light. We went from trail to trail popping up in village after village. I knew some of these trails but not how they all joined up. It was a bit of a master-class and if you missed this ride I recommend trying it out.

We had overlooked the final, crucial bike component which is not firmly bolted on, club members. After two hours of challenging riding, on a heavy bike, through forest path, gravelled trail and deep ruts, Rod finally came off in the last half mile. Still Maurice was there, as he always is for club members and soon a slightly battered Rod was able to complete the course.

All that was left was a socially-distanced beer in the cool evening air, spaced around Andrew’s garden. So thanks to Andrew for organising the trip and planning the route. Also for hosting the start, finish, and for the beer. Thanks to Maurice for keeping a watchful eye on the rest of us. Back to road biking for me this Thursday, my looser bits have had a terrible shaking.

xx

Trail. This one is off ‘The gap’ which is off Wicken Road, Arkesden

Not all the trails are well marked and a few years of exploring are recommended.

Simon T

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19 March. Corona virus. No Windmill Club rides for the forseeable future.

Due to the rapid spread of the Corona Virus and advice received from the Government and Cycling UK, there will be no organised Windmill Club rides for the forseeable future. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. For those wishing to keep in touch via WhatsApp, please contact Andrew.

Here’s a short video to help keep the Corona Man away:

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16 March. Springwatch. 21 miles.

Thanks to having eagle-eyed Sandra with us on this ride we were treated to a springtime display of wildlife as we cruised around the lanes. Starting from The Bull once again at Lower Langley and led by Maurice, the others joining him were Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin – 7 in all.

This is where we went, anti-clockwise:

Bull circuit 16 March 2020

The first creature that Sandra spotted, shortly after leaving, was standing on a bank clad in hi-viz yellow and coughing furiously as we went past. Hey, that’s not an animal we said, it’s the self-isolating Corona Man himself, Andrew. Indeed it was but we didn’t stop for a chat in case he got too close. We expected him to tag along behind at an acceptable distance but he was heading in the opposite direction. Luckily, it seems Andrew did not pick up the virus whilst visiting Northern Italy for a skiing holiday but he and Lindsay were forced to self-isolate for 2 weeks on their return, and today he was half way through.

Proceeding on towards Shaftenhoe End Sandra then spotted a large herd of deer, as big as the one seen last week at Catmere End but without the albinos – frequently seen around Elmdon but very rare. In the US it is illegal in many states to shoot albino deer as they are estimated to be as rare as 1 in 100,000.

Passing through Barkway and Reed we crossed the A10 and headed towards Therfield before turning left towards Buckland.

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Stopping to enjoy the spring sunshine near Therfield. 

The star spot by Sandra was a massive barn owl, with a head the size of a football and a large wingspan, which took off just as we were approaching Buckland. Sadly no time to take a photo. Then Sandra spotted two more large herds of deer, grazing quite close to each other, by which time we were convinced that she could easily join the BBC Springwatch team.

Re-crossing the A10 at a not particularly pleasant junction we meandered on admiring the countryside which was bursting with vigour. Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a drink outside, keeping our distance, until it got so cold we just had to occupy the empty public bar to warm up!

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Keeping our distance outside The Bull

Thanks to the rapid spread of the Corona virus, there was an acceptance that this could be the last Windmill Club ride for a while, which turned out to be the case, but we agreed that we would find ways and means of still getting out on our bikes in the weeks ahead.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride and organising us.

Martin

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9 March. Corona ditty ride. 30 miles.

The Corona virus, what virus? Nothing stops fit and healthy Windmillers from getting out on a ride, but we were not to know that Andrew would soon be the first to self-isolate having been evacuated from his ski resort near Turin following a total shut down of Italy. So, taking The Bull by the horns six Windmillers comprising Maurice, Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin gathered at Langley Lower Green for a pleasant ride around quiet and dry lanes.

This is where we went, clockwise:

Bull circuit 9 March 2020

This week there was an equal number of e-bikes to traditional bikes but e-bikers are generally very considerate of their hard pedalling companions, with Rod always at the back as a sweeper upper. A few tow ropes would have come in handy too, particularly on the climb to Great Chishill.

The weather was kind and so we made good progress to Elmdon and beyond, stopping for a breather at Catmere End where a large herd of deer was spotted munching away on tasty young oil seed rape:

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A herd of deer

Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end of the ride whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a pint with the locals around the bar. Charles left a bit earlier to go Scottish Country dancing. Martin claimed he was still going to Les Gets on Thursday and would miss Maurice’s birthday party ride which prompted Maurice to buy him a pint. But having cancelled the trip on Wednesday Maurice generously bought him another pint on Thursday. Good chap!

Here’s a little ditty I’ve composed that we might all sing along to on our future rides, using the music and some of the lyrics from the TV Corona advertisements of the 50s, which some of us vulnerable people might remember. It goes like this:

The Corona Man he’s in your street

The Corona Man you don’t want to meet

So wash your hands several times a day

And the Corona Man will fuck off.

Thanks, Maurice for organising the ride!

Martin

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12 March. Celebrating Maurice’s birthday. 30 miles.

There’s not a lot to celebrate at present what with the Corona virus spreading like wildfire, the stock market crashing and jobs at risk. But it was great that 13 Windmillers were able to gather together, fit and able, to celebrate Maurice’s 76th birthday and to join him on a windy day around windy lanes (geddit?), and for another 5 to join us at lunch time. The thought of Pat’s pies and curries at the Pig and Abbott in Abington Piggotts and a birthday pint from Maurice was an added incentive, and having coffee and biscuits before setting off is always a bonus.

Sadly, we were without Andrew who was in enforced self-isolation for 2 weeks with Lindsey having had their skiing holiday curtailed in Sestriere in Northern Italy due to the Corona virus. So it was Ken, Rod, Ric, Roger, Simon T, Deborah, Graham, Geoff, Howard, Charles, Mike, David and Martin (having cancelled his ski holiday) who accompanied Maurice on a delightful if somewhat blowy day around the lanes to the north west of Abington Piggotts, a cunning route devised by Maurice to reduce the impact of the wind as much as possible.

This is where most of us went, clockwise, but some decided to cut the corner off to get to the coffee stop at Waresley first, either because they were out front and hadn’t read the map or because they were in need of an urgent caffeine fix, or both:

Maurice's birthday ride 12 March 2020

Some of the strongest wind was experienced soon after the start whilst heading towards Steeple Morden from Litlington, and so an early stop at the Memorial for the 355th Fighter Group provided welcome relief:

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Back row from the left: David, Mike, Simon, Roger, birthday boy Maurice, Ric, Geoff, Ken, Charles, Rod. Front row: Howard, Graham, Deborah

Continuing on, things soon improved after Steeple Morden as we headed north west towards Cockayne Hatley where another stop was made to take in the view:

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Cockayne Hatley in Bedfordshire – famous at one time for having the largest apple orchard in England with one million Cox’s Orange Pippin trees – grubbed up in 1974 as being uneconomic

Then it was back into the wind for a stretch towards Potton – Mind The Gap being the order of the day due to the strong gusts in between hedgerows – before getting some relief towards Gamlingay, where sensible types cut the corner and got to the coffee stop first. The others had a short monster hill to climb but were rewarded with a long downwind freewheel stretch that seemed to last for about a mile before entering Waresley.

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Springtime in Waresley

The coffee stop was the excellent Waresley Garden Centre, but like all garden centres these days it is quite difficult to find the gardening department………

Maurice already had thoughts of lunch in mind and so the order was given to saddle up and pedal on, passing picturesque Hatley St. George on the way and making generally easier progress. Almost bang on time at 12.30pm and almost exactly on 30 miles (how does he do it?) we rolled into The Pig and Abbott where the fire was roaring and where it was good to be joined by Brian, who had cycled over from Cambridge, Vernon, Simon O, John B and Bernard York, an old friend of Maurice with whom he cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats. It was good to hear from John about the progress of his recent hip operation, but trying to persuade John of the merits of e-bikes proved to be somewhat difficult.

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Maurice and friends Vernon, Mike, nephew David and Bernard on the top table
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Raising a glass to the birthday boy

A toast was also proposed by Rod to our absent friend, Andrew, who no doubt will be soon be giving us tips on how to survive two weeks of self-isolation – shooting pigeons appears to be one of his survival tips.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride, buying the drinks, and organising us all. Also thanks to Ken for taking a photo and Brian for the lunchtime pics. And congratulations to the usual hardy types, Graham and Ric, for riding to and from the meeting point, clocking up many more miles in the process.

Stay well.

Martin

PS. If you haven’t already joined the new Windmill Club WhatsApp group, you’re missing out on easy communications between members and some fine humour. Download the app and ask Andrew to add your mobile phone number.

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2 March. More puddles. 20 miles.

Outnumbered by the e-bikes of Maurice, Rod and Nick, Andrew and Martin had to pedal extra hard to keep up with them on this ride around wet lanes. But would they get their comeuppance whilst traversing deep puddles and fords, we wondered? Would they short out? But no, e-bikes are clearly designed to withstand anything the English weather can throw at them and so they ploughed through regardless. It was only those wearing non-waterproof shoes who really suffered.

The weather has been particularly unkind to The Windmill Club on recent Mondays and Thursdays – perhaps members have been sinning more than usual? The poor old Essex fields had given up trying to soak up all the rain and so the ditches and streams were full to the brim with water, overflowing onto the roads in many places. But at least it had stopped raining for a while which enabled us to get out on our bikes and enjoy the sunshine.

The first wave of water to ride through was shortly after starting off from The Bull at Langley Lower Green whilst riding up the hill to Upper Green. Maurice, sporting a smart new pair of Schwalbe Marathons which Andrew had acquired for a bargain price, wanted to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering which some of us had visited the previous Thursday and although it was closed it was agreed that we would fit it into a Thursday ride as a coffee stop. Thereafter it was a question of dodging the puddles and fords whenever possible or cruising through them with legs raised in the air.

This is where we went:

Bull circuit 2 March 2020
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Puddles? Wot puddles? None here near Rickling Church.
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Chatting to a local armed with a rake to clear a culvert which would otherwise have flooded his house

The local chap in the above photograph turned out to be a keen cyclist who rode with another club which averaged around 16mph. He said discreetly that The Windmill Club was perhaps not for him!

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Martin in front of an extra large puddle

Nick peeled off towards Meesden whilst the others proceeded to The Bull to chew the cud over some fine beers, but taking care not to share any nuts in case the Corona Man had got there before us.

Thanks to Maurice for leading the way and to Andrew for organising us, and for the photos.

Martin

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27 February. More dining, some riding. John B back.

Another week of cold and windy weather which resulted in Monday’s ride on 24 February not taking place also produced a morning of snow on this late February day.

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Charles’s garden in Chrishall – enough snow to deter anyone from riding a bike….

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……except, of course, Graham who was determined to get to The Red Cow by pedal power

Word was circulated by email and WhatsApp that the ride due to set off from The Red Cow at Chrishall was cancelled but with fine weather forecasted for later in the morning some brave souls besides Graham (Andrew, Ken, Ric, Charles and Martin), also decided to wend their way uphill to work up an appetite for lunch, and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.

The riders were joined by Simon T, Rod, Neil, Simon O, Brummie Brian and John B, who surprised us all with his appearance just 4 weeks after his hip operation. Here we all are enjoying a good lunch:

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John told us that he had been driving a car for the past two weeks and walking the dogs across the fields without a stick, let alone crutches. Probably all against doctor’s orders, but that’s John for you. Well done, John, and we look forward to seeing you on your bike again soon, perhaps an e-bike to start with?

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Graham about to set off after lunch

The sun was shining by now and so after bidding the others farewell, Ric and Charles made their own way home whilst Andrew, Ken, Graham and Martin set off down the hill to the Wendens Ambo – Great Chishill road. Ken peeled off at the junction whilst the others proceeded up to Builden End and continued on the byway towards Langley Lower Green and then to Upper Green in order to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering as a future coffee stop. And a fine place it turned out to be. Then it was on to Arkesden and over the hill towards Wendens Ambo where Andrew peeled off leaving Graham and Martin to climb Hill Bastardo with a fresh breeze coming off the open fields which at times assisted and other times hindered our efforts to return to Ickleton via Catmere End, clocking up 20 miles in all.

Thanks to Andrew for organising the lunch and enabling us to make the most of the day.

Martin

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20 February. The Windmill Dining Club. Zero miles. Max calories.

Storms Ciara and Dennis have wreaked their havoc recently, resulting in several ride cancellations. But try as they might, Ciara and Dennis failed to prevent Windmillers from getting together to enjoy a good lunch at the Fleur de Lys in Widdington.

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From the left, Martin, Brian, Geoff, Howard, Vernon, Andrew, Chris, Simon, Maurice and Ken, looking replete after an excellent lunch.

Despite the weather, Geoff e-biked over from Saffron Walden and it was also good to have Simon O join us for a drink. Conversations ranged from cars (nothing new there), summer rides in Scotland, France and Norfolk, the exploits of a group of mad cyclists called The Rough-Stuff Fellowship, and, once again, how best to split timber into logs. Simon O thought that Ken had been in a fight but Ken’s recent skin treatment seemed to be proceeding well.

This is where we should have been cycling:

Fleur 20 Feb
Another time

Martin

 

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13 February. Jemima Puddleduck – where were you? 26 miles.

Sandra would have loved this ride. Not since she led us through puddles galore a couple of years ago have we seen anything remotely comparable until this ride. And it was windy too at times which Sandra would have enjoyed even more!  So it was Mucky Maurice and Donald the Ducky Dawg who were instead jointly responsible for leading just seven Windmillers through deep puddles, streams and fords as we navigated our way through the lanes to Thaxted and back, starting from the Fleur de Lys in Widdington.

This is where we went, the southerly route out and the northerly route back:

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The weather had not been kind since Storm Ciara hit the UK a few days back and with Storm Dennis on the way it was not surprising that we had quite a small turnout for a Thursday. But, luckily, we found a window of relatively quiet weather and no rain which resulted in a very pleasant ride with blue skies at times, even if it meant cruising through the puddles with legs raised in the air to avoid getting a soaking.

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Getting ready for the off. Note Roger’s smart new fireman’s outfit he got for Christmas.

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Hi viz Lawrence extracting a mega thorn from his Schwalbe Marathon before departure

Accompanying Maurice and Andrew were Roger, Lawrence, Graham, Nigel and Martin. Besides the mega thorn which Lawrence had plucked from his front tyre, he also discovered his speed down the steep hill from Widdington towards Elsenham to be faster than intended due to his rear brake not working. A stop in Henham soon established that the problem was due to gunge in the mechanism and a few quick tweaks of the handle soon got it going again.

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Lawrence outside Henham church looking happier now that his rear brake was working again

Despite the detritus on the roads there were no other mishaps or punctures, and so we made steady progress towards Thaxted where excellent coffee and cakes were consumed in Parrishes.

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Outside The Guildhall in Thaxted, built over 600 years ago by the Guild of Cutlers

The return trip was uneventful, and shorter, but involved a pleasant detour up to Little Henham before climbing back up the steep hill to Widdington where it was good to be joined for lunch by Ken, Charles and Brian, Ken having cycled over from Ickleton. Graham also cycled to and from Ickleton and claimed to have already clocked up over 700 miles in 2020 so far!

Back at base

The contest for the muckiest man at the end of the ride was won by Roger followed closely by Andrew.

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The Windmill Knights at their round table in The Fleur de Lys

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Hands up those who thought that Today’s Soup was Buttered Bread!!

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for both planning an identical ride, Andrew for his organisation and the Strava map, and Brian for the lunch time pic.

Martin

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6 February. Brummie Brian’s Wimpole ride. 34 miles.

Brummie Brian always comes up with an interesting ride when called upon which usually results in a good turnout, and today was no exception. In addition there was the added bonus of it being Martin’s belated birthday booze ride, which he seems to have been celebrating for nearly a month since first cracking open a bottle to celebrate his ‘free’ ski pass on 12 January. Not exactly free as it turned out but €52 for a season ain’t bad. Canny Ken, on the other hand, wangled a 2 week pass free of charge and was told he could renew it for further periods also foc …..

Enough of skiing. Assembling at Brian’s local in Stapleford, The Three Horseshoes, (a former drug dealing centre it seems but Brian claims that’s not the reason that he, Tom and Chris have met there regularly over the years………..) the Windmill gang that controls the cycle county lines of North Essex, North Herts and South Cambs also comprised Andrew, Sandra, Rod, Roger, Tom, Simon T, Graham, Ric, Howard, Victor, Yorkie Brian, Neil and Martin, making 14 in all.  Waving them off was Chris, who promised to return back at lunchtime.

This is where Brian’s route took us on this glorious day, albeit a bit chilly to start with at just 1°C:

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Warning us that it was around 22 miles to the coffee stop at Wimpole Hall, Brian led the way via a short stretch of the Sawston By-Pass and then through to Whittlesford via the bike path, crossing the railway line miraculously all together (our recent luck must run out soon). There was very little wind and so we proceeded at a steady pace and gradually felt warm glows appearing on our extremities. No punctures or other unforeseen eventualities either but there seemed to be a race for the coffee queue as we approached Wimpole resulting in a few missing out on the ritual pic in front of the Hall:

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Wimpole Hall in all its glory

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Coffee and cakes on the terrace at Wimpole – too early for wasps, thankfully

In Orwell we stopped to take a call from Ken who was in the vicinity and who sensibly remained on the top of Barrington hill as we crawled up it about 15 minutes later. That made us 15 which meant continuing to cycle in two groups spread apart to allow motorists and other road users to overtake us fairly easily. Indeed, not a horn was noticed all day!

Tom and Victor bid us farewell on returning to The Three Horseshoes and Chris and Geoff joined us, making us 15 once again for an excellent lunch washed down with a fine selection of beers, including JHB which we believe is a favourite of John Bagrie?  John’s hip operation had gone well the previous week and although a quick return trip to the hospital was necessary he was now getting around on his crutches. We all wished him well and hoped we would be seeing him again soon.

Thanks to Brian for a great ride and for arranging such splendid weather. Also to Andrew for all his organisation.

Martin