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22 January. The Fall Guys (and a Gal). 25 miles.

Who would have thought that within a mile of this glorious photograph of a pony and trap outside Furneux Pelham church, Windmillers were skidding and sliding on the most severe black ice experienced in the history of The Windmill Club? Despite messages and phone calls this didn’t stop Rod, Mike, Geoff, Charles, Martin (the fall guys) and Deborah (the fall gal) all toppling off at different times, some at Furneux Pelham and some elsewhere. Luckily all escaped serious injury but with a few bruises for some. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence of the carnage which took place – it’s hard to imagine from the photos that follow that such conditions could have existed, but they did. This is not fake news. (Happy to add photos of bruises at a later date. Ed.)

The ride planned for the day before was cancelled due to the high winds of Storm Christoph, but did anyone read The Guardian early on Friday?

Freeze expected on heels of flooding damage from Storm Christoph, shouted the headline and this was indeed confirmed by Charles at 07.44 and Andrew at 08.01.

For Martin, the day started with a slithery drive up to Chrishall from Ickleton – quite good fun in fact using opposite lock on some of the bends. But that resulted in another warning message to Windmillers followed by orders from barking Dawg Andrew to DISMOUNT on the hill down to Wicken Bonhunt. However, before then, Deborah had already had a nasty fall into the road when avoiding a car coming towards her and was taking it easy, suffering from a bruised hip, when Charles and Martin caught up with her between Rickling and Berden. Tales then slowly emerged of other falls, mainly on the Furneux Pelham black ice.

A large herd of deer, including Albinos, sandwiched between Charles and Roger near Rickling. Roger was unaware at this stage of the black ice to come, so close to his home in Furneux Pelham.
Rod giving an account of his fall – broken mirror and a bruise but could have been worse. Martin suggested he might strap an airbag on the back of his bike in future. Meanwhile, Maurice escaped unscathed.

Charles sped on ahead and so Deborah and Martin cruised slowly onwards, stopping for a coffee in the bus shelter just before Furneux Pelham where a call was received from Charles warning of the ice in the lane after the church, where he had two falls.

Deborah enjoying her coffee not knowing what was in store just a mile further on………

Alan caught up as Deborah and Martin were chatting to the owner of the pony and trap in Furneux Pelham after which, with some trepidation, they proceeded onwards to tackle the ice. Just before getting to the dodgy part, they met Mike and Graham coming the other way, Mike having had a painful tumble but Graham managed to get through without falling, having sensibly reduced his tyre pressures. It was tempting to do a U-turn at that point but, hey-ho, Windmillers are always up for a challenge and so Alan led the way forward, very gingerly. The road was awash with water and black ice – a lethal combination – but having got through what was meant to be the worst bit, Martin had his second fall of the day (the first during a photo shoot) when, despite a shout from Alan, his Schwalbe Marathons at 90psi decided to give way on an icy camber and off he came. However, he was practically stationary at the time and his slow motion fall was described by Deborah, who had a good view from behind, as being ‘the most uncool fall’ she had ever witnessed. How’s that for fame?

Proceeding in a sociually distanced / obeying the rules fashion, the trio settled down to enjoy the final downwind stretch towards Anstey and Nuthamsted when Alan pulled up sharply with puncture no. 2 in his front tyre, the first one having happened before he set off. It was tough work getting his tyre back on the rim but once achieved all went smoothly from then on.

Alan and Martin commencing puncture repair no. 2 on Alan’s bike – a thin piece of flint may have been the culprit.

Others taking part were Howard, Julia, Lawrence, Brian and Jeremy. Howard and Roger were warned about the ice as they passed through Anstey and escaped unscathed, Julia used her gravel bike and went off road at times to avoid the ice, Lawrence went off-route, courtesy of Komoot, which must have known of the ice as it took him a different way, and Brian / Jeremy must have had a premonition of the disaster to come having announced beforehand they would not be riding the Furneux Pelham stretch – wise men! (Actually, it was because they were starting from Shelford – lucky them.)

This is the icy circuit:

Back at Charles’s house, where he was hosting the charity box, who would have known what adventures we had experienced? The weather was idyllic, Brian had been happily trying to obtain water from Charles’s emergency water supply (frozen solid perhaps) and Deborah was playing with her new puppy Esther which had returned for a spot of puppy sitting by Fiona. A different world.

It was a lovely ride, Maurice, despite the ice but one we shall no doubt be still talking about for many years to come. And thanks to Andrew for his organisation and for barking orders at us – that’s what to expect from a good dawg. Thanks also to Brian and Deborah for some of the photos (and for the blog title, Deborah!).

Martin

PS Charles reports that the grand sum of £115 was raised, which includes some past debts and advance payments. Maurice will soon need to present a balance sheet to keep tabs on the accounts.

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18 January. B–st-rds galore. 20 miles.

The good thing about lockdown is that it brings out Windmillers in their droves to keep fit and remain sane. And our charity box fills up handsomely as a result. As Charles put it so eloquently on WhatsApp, he saw lots of b–st-rds on the circuit – a possible record for a Monday with 16 Windmillers taking part.

Mind you, after the terrible weather of late who wouldn’t want to jump on a bike and enjoy almost Spring-like conditions? Grab the opportunity whilst you can seemed to be the order of the day.

Simon very kindly hosted the charity box and was just about to set off at 12.30pm when Suzanne and Martin arrived having cycled from Abington and Ickleton, meeting Julia on the way who shot up Coploe Hill like greased lightning. After an inspection of Simon’s impressive raised asparagus beds which he had been mending that morning, Andrew then arrived and they set off in an AC direction using the same route as the week before. Others taking part were Maurice, Rod, Geoff, Graham, Victor, Brian, Deborah, Jenni, Lawrence and Alan.

This is where we went:

Andrew double checking his Schwalbe Marathons at Simon’s
Suzanne and Simon ready for the off. Note Simon’s smart new charity box, weighed down with a chunk of lead to stop it blowing away. (But extra booty for a thief should it be stolen.)

Martin and Suzanne set off in a C direction and it wasn’t long before they came across the stationary figure of Rod at the bottom of Hill Bastardo furiously pumping air into his rear tyre due to a slow puncture. Removing the rear wheel of his e-bike was not something he would relish and after some discussion he decided to carry on up the hill and to review the situation at Simon’s house, if he got there. Luckily for him, rescue man Maurice was not far behind who caught him up at Simon’s and proceeded to inject some kind of super sealant mixed with Propane into the tyre, ensuring no sparks were created, and this did the trick. Zefal is the name of the magic potion apparently. Just as well it didn’t explode as Rocket Rod could be on the moon by now.

Will I, won’t I get as far as Simon’s?

Cruising around the lanes at a leisurely pace was very pleasant, and a reminder that the weather is kind to us most of the time. It’s probably also fed up with lockdown and likes to blow it’s top every now and again.

Geoff going AC near Strickling Green

Brian and Victor, on the other hand, were clearly setting out to break records having reported cycling so fast, heads down, that they whizzed straight past Simon’s house. They clocked up 35 miles having started from Stapleford / Shelford and saw Rod, Maurice, Charles and Julia on their AC circuit. No doubt Graham clocked up a huge distance too and Suzanne would also have done around 40 miles. Well done to all the long distance travellers.

Simon reported that £75 was collected but this should swell once some dues are settled on the next ride.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation of the ride.

Martin

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15 January. Floody cold for 20 miles.

On the whole the weather has not been very kind to us so far in January and today was no exception, despite the ride being postponed from the day before when it was truly awful. At least it wasn’t raining but on the other hand the heavy rain of the 14th caused river levels to rise and flood the roads badly around Hinxton, resulting in U-turns by some Windmillers and cold wet feet for others. The lucky ones escaped with a diversion to the main road between Ickleton and Duxford, thanks to WhatApp pinging away.

It was also very cold as 15 Windmillers ventured out at various times from 9.30am onwards to avoid mingling and to obey the rules, and it worked out well. Barista Lawrence (more anon) very kindly hosted the charity box again which received visits from Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Mike, Ken, Brian, Jeremy (a friend of Brian’s), Rod, Alan, Roger, Charles and Martin.

Martin took a look at his weather station at 9.36am and decided that 5 layers were needed and a 10.30am start was quite early enough.

Hello Simon! Hello Charles! It’s funny how one’s vision plays tricks when there are many other cyclists on the road. How do you spot a Windmiller charging towards you if he/she is not displaying a toy windmill provided specifically for that purpose last year? Before reaching Duxford Martin was convinced he saw Simon in his usual summer gear and then he swore he saw some stripey socks on the chap riding behind Deborah in Whittlesford but his cheery hellos got no responses, just looks of ‘who is this nutter?’. But it was Deborah in Whittlesford, wasn’t it? If not, it was another lovely lady who smiled. A later report from Graham confirmed it was definitely not Simon because, adding on a few extra miles at the end of his ride, he was surprised to come across Simon near Wenden Lofts, just a wee bit off route……..

By taking the Ickleton to Duxford Road, going AC, little did Martin realise the carnage going on just half a mile away across the flooded meadows. Brian and Jeremy had forgotten their swimming trunks, otherwise they might have combined their bikes into a pedalo to traverse the first flood leading towards Hinxton, and so they U-turned and continued to Ickleton on the main road. Graham, Mike and Alan meanwhile tackled the flood on the Ickleton side of Hinxton, also going AC, and got through even though it was ankle deep at times on the pedals. Luckily they were not swept downstream but Mike got very wet and eventually retired in Thriplow with feet so cold they could not turn the pedals.

Here are the dilemmas they faced:

Howling like wolves in the tunnel under the M11 at Little Shelford, Martin and Andrew stopped for a chat. Andrew confessed that he had two punctures already that week in his beloved Schwalbe Marathons and so he’s already in the running for the puncture prize 2021 barely two weeks in. He blamed long thorns from recent hedgecutting, which is indeed a nuisance this time of year.

I love my Schwalbe Marathons!

Another encounter took place near Thriplow when Brian and Jeremy told of their earlier experience in Hinxton and it was good to see Geoff too coming up behind, pleased that his e-bike is now behaving itself.

The coffee stop rules at Lawrence’s were obeyed to the letter when Martin arrived. No one was around and so he selected a garden chair to stretch out and soak up what little sun there was and to drink his coffee. It wasn’t long, however, before the patron himself arrived and offered a proper coffee which was accepted by Roger who arrived too. Barista Lawrence duly went indoors, got out his coffee making gear and after much steam generation and hissing he delivered a fine looking brew at the take away window.

The best Barista in Fowlmere.
Ever smiling Roger, despite his frozen toes.

Lawrence reported that the local water table had risen to a level not seen for many years, the proof of which was to be found in a ditch between Fowlmere and the A505. For the benefit of this historic occasion a stop had to be made at said ditch:

The Fowlmere ditch that never fills with water. Wasn’t it Boris Johnson who said in September 2019 he would rather be dead in a ditch than ask Brussels for an extension to Brexit? This one might have suited him quite well, a bit narrow perhaps?

After Chrishall Grange Roger and Martin went their separate ways. Just before Ickleton Martin heard a whooshing of tyres behind him, clearly someone coming up fast, and of course it turned out to be Graham who had been half way round the world already that day. Well done, Graham , you’re clearly out to beat your 2020 record.

This is where we went:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5195952

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew once again for their organisation, to all those who took photos and to Graham for the previous evening’s Zoom meeting (but not well attended probably due to no ride that ride). We raised £80 according to Lawrence, including accounts receivable.

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7 January. Traffic jam in Fowlmere

‘How many layers are you wearing?’ was the topic of many a conversation on this very cold day. Forecasted to be -1C but in practice around +0.5C and with talk of icy roads, it was a relief to find the only ice was on Lawrence’s windscreen in Fowlmere, with the mysterious words ‘Rev was here’ scrawled on it.

Despite the initial cold, 14 hardy Windmillers comprising Maurice, Andrew, Ken, Rod, Roger, Graham, Charles, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Lawrence and Martin turned out to do a CAC ride centred on Fowlmere and taking in Thriplow, Newton, Little Shelford, Ickleton and Chrishall Grange. Some did a variation of this route including Ken and Martin who decided to warm up first with a climb to Elmdon from Ickleton, requiring a strip off of one layer by Martin in Elmdon only to get cold again on the downhill stretch from Crawley End. Others took to the Duxford Grange Road to avoid the Ickleton to Chrishall Grange road which had reports of ice and puddles the day before but regretted having done so due to the aftermath of sugar beet lorries near Duxford Grange.

CAC rides are designed to avoid Windmillers congregating together and obeying the rules, which is generally the case. But for some reason, despite starting from different locations a large number descended on Lawrence’s house, where he was hosting the charity box, at around the same time. Perhaps it was the need to warm up a bit, but some realised it was time to get ‘on yer bike’ whilst others recognised the scale of the traffic jam and sensibly cycled on. At least Lawrence wasn’t there, which helped a bit.

The weather improved considerably after 11.00am, the sun emerged and most arrived home as warm as toast, if not warmer.

This was not a day for taking photos it seems, due to numb fingers. But Simon rode the same route the day before and has contributed the artistic masterpiece above (he has a great love of rusty old iron) and this one below, spotted somewhere en route:

Thanks to Simon for this week’s pics.

And this is where most went:

An item of sad news was heard concerning Roger’s wife who was bitten badly by a dog over the Christmas period resulting in a trip to A&E in Stevenage and then being kept in the hospital for 4 days due to an infection. We wish her a continued recovery from the nasty incident.

Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the route, and to Graham for the evening’s Zoom session.

Martin

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2020. That Was The Year That Was.

That was the year that was

It’s over, let it go

It started way up above par

Finished way below

Remember this opening song by Millicent Martin for David Frost’s weekly satirical programme? (Apologies, BBC, for substituting Year for Week). It seems to sum up what we have endured in 2020.

But it did start well, didn’t it? Except for Brian who had two punctures, one in each wheel, on the first ride on 2nd January. There was also speculation that day as to what might lie in the year ahead – would Deborah buy some mudguards, would Andrew stop banging on about Schwalbe Marathons? Harmless stuff like that but no mention of what would hit the world later that month when the Corona virus started to spread in China, Italy and Austrian ski resorts. On 6th January, Rod had a nasty fall on a slippery road resulting in a cracked helmet and a bent bike but Sandra came to his rescue in her van and scooped him up. He was a bit bruised but luckily nothing else was broken. Brian’s birthday was celebrated on the 24th at The Black Bull in Balsham and on the 30th nine Windmillers inspected Nigel’s immaculate motorbike workshop and stuffed themselves silly on Sue’s buttered tea loaf and shortbread.

Nigel’s immaculate workshop

On 6th February we had a great turnout, as above, for a ride to Wimpole on a beautiful day. But it wasn’t long afterwards that storms Ciara and Dennis resulted in cancelled rides and the formation of the Windmill Dining Club to ensure we kept our local publicans happy.

It remained very wet, which was just a precursor of the real storm that was about to hit us hard, the dreaded Corona virus. By 12th March the virus was spreading rapidly, people were dying, stock markets were crashing, unemployment was rising, Andrew was self-isolating after an abandoned ski trip to Italy, and all this when we were meant to be celebrating Maurice’s birthday! But we carried on, not really knowing what was in store, and enjoyed a lovely Springwatch ride with Sandra on 16th March when her eagle eye spotted a barn owl, a large herd of deer including some Albinos and, God forbid, a strange looking hi-viz clad person ahead of us standing on a bank and coughing furiously. It turned out to be Andrew taking some exercise during his self isolation and so we gave him a wide berth.

And then on 19th March the bombshell hit us. No more rides! Hibernation time for The Windmill Club! Deaths galore! Panic buying! The end is nigh! Suddenly, we had to adapt, quickly, if we were to remain sane. Owing to the club being affiliated to Cycling UK, the first thing was to stop organising group rides. But exercise outdoors was allowed and so Windmillers continued to ride individually and occasionally we bumped into each other. This happened with increasing frequency which led to the idea of creating a circuit and inviting members to join the circuit near to where they lived, some going clockwise and some anti-clockwise. This was quite legitimate under the Government’s rules and thus heralded what became known as CAC rides which continue to this day. The first one took place on 1 April and resulted in £80 being raised for the charities we support and a stop for refreshments at the end of Maurice’s long driveway, plus the recording of times for the circuit, suitably judged by Howard. The fastest time was set by Graham who did the circuit in 1 hour 49 minutes and 15 seconds.

The Windmill Club did indeed go into hibernation. The WhatsApp group name was changed to Cycle Mates and it was soon swamped with Corona virus jokes and stories like this:

And this from yours truly to encourage members to wash their hands:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Hrouto2t6sBbRi2c7

Blogs also stopped as we had to show that we were obeying all the rules but unofficial CAC rides took off big time and money poured into the charity box which was hosted at various places throughout April – £93 on the 9th, when Graham was first again, £95 on the 16th, £153 on the 23rd and £85 on the 30th, making a grand total of £984 by the end of April.

During April, Brian started a wonderful series of Windmillers of the Day which included Andrew, Vernon, Sandra, Charles, Keith, Deborah, Chris, John, Lawrence, Ken, Howard, Roger, Geoff, Tom, Graham, Simon, Rod, Nigel, myself and Maurice, before he ran out of photographs from previous blogs. Finally, Brian was created Windmiller of the Day by Andrew. Here’s the gang:

May rides continued in CAC style, with the magnificent sum of £170 being raised on 14 May, when toy windmills were also distributed for attachment to bikes so that Windmillers could be recognised amongst the hoards of other cyclists on the roads. On 26 May, Graham decided to climb the hills around Ickleton in one day enough times to at least equal the 1,600 metres he would have climbed had he been allowed to climb Mont Ventoux that day. In the event he climbed the equivlent of a trip from the seaside to Avoriaz at 1,810 metres! Well done, Graham.

June saw the easing of restrictions at long last and groups of 6 were allowed to cycle together. The blog re-emerged on 1st June when Simon described a rock hard off road route devised by Andrew after a month of no rain which shook 6 Windmillers and their bikes to bits, including Rod falling off in the last half mile, luckily only slightly battered. By 25 June, it was really blazing as 19 Windmillers descended on Wimpole Hall for coffee, all at different times and socially distanced of course.

Socially distanced on 25 June at Wimpole Hall

June also saw the creation by Brian of an easier to remember URL for the blog- http://www.thewindmillclub.org . Is this the reason for a massive increase in visitors and views from many more countries this year?

July started with a memorial ride for Victor’s wife, Rose, who sadly passed away a few weeks back. This created an opportunity to have a special fund raising day resulting in a club record of £440 which Maurice proposed topping up to £500 from club funds and making a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care. It was then topped up by a further £100 from Victor making a grand sum of £600. The day was notable also for a summer footwear parade, Charles winning narrowly in his fancy shoes and socks from Suzanne in her shocking pink / rich plum trainers.

First prize: Charles in his Hickeys

Thoughts of croissants, coffee and Calvados started on Rod’s birthday ride on 10 July as three of the French contingent, Andrew, Simon and I, had a warm up ride with 9 other Windmillers before a socially distanced lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. But Andrew and Simon couldn’t resist really getting in the mood:

Simon and Andrew practising singing the Marseilleaise

So it was early on 13 July that Andrew, Simon, Lawrence and I departed in 2 cars plus bikes for Newhaven, having had to make last minute changes to our itinerary due to our ferry to St Malo being cancelled. But all went well, we had good weather throughout and stayed and ate at some nice places, demolishing platters of seafood at every opportunity. Andrew was our guide for the Normandy beach tour and we also stopped to pay our respects at the memorial to our Windmill friend Kell Ryan, who was well known in the area.

The fine weather continued throughout July and into August when rides were still allowed in groups of up to six people, making it seem almost like the old days and being able to go further afield too, to places like West Stow, Long Melford and Lavenham. Rain and thunderstorms at last arrived to water the garden, and Windmillers, but that didn’t stop Windmillers from venturing out. The rain is at least warm in August.

Sheltering in Stambourne

September got off to a bad start on the 3rd for Andrew having had a puncture and a hornet attack him on the same day whilst on a ride around Stevenage. But the highlight of the day was the arrival at The Rising Sun in Halls Green of Vernon and his wife Moira for lunch, Vernon having introduced as to The Rising Sun a few years back. He was in good form but not fit enough for a ride. He had however been playing a mean round of golf in previous weeks, to which I can testify.

Andrew, deflated on 3rd September but not yet stung

With the holiday period over, rides got going with a vengeance during the remainder of September. On the 10th, after a pleasant ride from the hamlet of Fuller Street, down to Heyford Basin and Maldon, Mike suddenly lurched to his feet during lunch with a swelling the size of a rugby ball in one of his legs. 999 or rush him immediately to hospital in Chelmsford? The latter course of action was considered to be much quicker given the pressure on the NHS and Deborah offered to do just that. He was soon attended to and discharged later that day, just as well as he was on a climbing expedition in France the following week!

Valentines’ Day re-emerged 7 months late on 14th September when Deborah jumped off her bike on a warm sunny evening and dived into a field of glorious wild flowers.

Deborah, the flower power girl

A week later it was Maurice’s turn to pick flowers for Lynn but some Windmillers got a bit worried about this show of affection for me and vice versa:

There’s no truth in this romance, honest guv’.

What started as a bad month for Andrew ended as one too when he developed a bad case of food poisoning which laid him low for a couple of weeks. He reported having lost 10 pounds quite quickly which, as Simon quipped, was quite a lot of money for a Scotsman to lose! So we missed his cheerful company whilst a wet and stormy end to September heralded a more restrictive October, following much the same pattern as earlier in the year. Eureka moment! Storms = surge in cases of corona virus. Banish storms! Banish the virus! Your views, please, Prof Simon.

The really sad news at the end of September was that our good friend and colleague Vernon Gamon died on the 27th, less than a month after joining us for lunch at The Rising Sun and after a long and courageous battle with liver cancer. He was upbeat and stoic right to the end, even to the extent of buying himself a new car in recent weeks. Ken and I were proud to represent The Windmill Club and the Gog Magog Golf Club at his funeral on 12th October at a natural burial site in deepest Leicestershire.

Vernon Gamon, much loved and sorely missed

Vernon never forgave me for padlocking my bike to his in Steeple Bumpstead on my first outing with The Windmill Club and forgetting to bring the key. ‘What a plonker’, I heard him say. ‘Whoever invited this nutcase?’

Simon’s October got off to a bad start on the 1st with a major error of route on the return leg of Ken’s ride to Graffham Water when he opted to explore the dual carriageway of the A1 north of Buckden followed by a zig zag route to avoid the new A14 whilst navigating back to base at The White Swan at Conington, by which time lunch was over. He’s been singing the 1961 Dion hit They call me the wanderer ever since. To make matters worse his car would not start but a helpful lady produced some jump leads which did the trick.

The wanderer returns

Covid-19 cases started to rise again by mid-October which meant The Windmill Club had to get creative again to cope with the popularity of our rides. So on the 15th Geoff and Brian came up with the idea of 3 groups of 6, one of which would use The Three Hills at Bartlow as their base whilst the other two used The Black Bull at Balsham, but all doing the same route in different directions. This worked out well except for a few unrelated hiccups such as Rod having a glancing blow collision with a big lorry on the way to the start and Lawrence having an involuntary dismount at a busy road junction. It also rained hard on one group just as they recognised the lone figure of John Bagrie heading in the opposite direction. It was great to see John again and to have him join us for lunch.

Deborah very kindly provided vast quantities of mushrooms and apples on the 19th on a ride when Maurice was determined to show off on his e-bike leaving others trailing behind who then took a different route, but all met up eventually at The Red Cow and enjoyed a pint outside. On the 22nd there were punctures galore, Martin’s being particularly time consuming and expensive to repair but not as expensive as Maurice’s puncture on his car.

Punctures and pit crews galore on 22 October

Lockdown recommenced on 2 November which meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for the 5th, which will now be held at a future date. Instead, CAC rides came to the rescue with Windmillers allowed to cycle singly or in pairs. And the lovely early November weather made it seem more bearable, although we felt sorry for the farmers who had no market for pumpkins this year:

Pumpkins, pumpkins, lovely pumpkins. Make me an offer!

Autumnwatch rides were a treat for the naturists, sorry naturalists, amongst us, the highlight being 10 red kites seen circling together by Jenni and Deborah in Anstey on 20 November. Large herds of deer were also spotted amongst the splendid autumn colours:

Autumn in all its glory on 12 November

But by the end of November it was pretty cold, wet, murky and muddy. Brian had a bad day on the 19th having to endure wet weather, a puncture and a bad back all at the same time and the conditions had a strange effect on Simon who, cycling alone at the time, decided to compose the first of an anthology of poems about pigeons. Here it is which could perhaps be set to music and sung in a punk style:

There were eight pigeons on that wire

In spring they ate all my apple-tree buds

Some birds I ‘ate because they are destructive (and don’t sing)

As a convicted multiple murderer of pigeons

Unrepentant, I will scratch on my cell wall

I ‘ate, the eight fat pigeons I ‘ate

And I don’t care

Keep ’em coming Simon!

In the absence of our traditional Christmas lunch when Maurice announces the distribution of the money we have raised for various charities, 26th November became the focus for this year’s announcement. And what a phenomenal amount we have managed to raise – £4,737 as at 26 November which was generously topped up by Maurice by a further £300 to make a grand total of £5,037. The distribution was as follows:

Marie Curie Cancer Appeal: £500, in memory of Rose Humberstone

Arthur Rank Hospice: £500, in memory of Victor

East Anglia Childrens’ Hospice: £1,000

Eve Cancer Appeal: £1,000

The Samaritans: £1,000, in recognition of the amazing work that Deborah does for this charity

Pets as Therapy: £500, in recognition of the work that Charles and Fiona do for this charity with their dogs

Addenbrookes Charitable Trust: £150

Deborah and Charles receiving their cheques from Maurice on 26th November

December started very cold, wet and windy as three intrepid Windmillers, Alan, Mike and Graham, found to their cost on 3rd December. Most Windmillers decided wisely to buff their candlesticks instead and check that their Christmas lights were still working.

The three musketeers, Mike, Graham and Alan sheltering under Simon’s umbrella. No need for a fridge for the beers.

Flooded roads, low temperatures, mud, murk and punctures were now de rigueur for the rest of December. The 10th marked a striking contrast between the haves and the have nots amongst Windmillers. The haves, including Graham, Mike, Geoff, Deborah and Ken smirked contentedly inside the warmth of Poppy’s Barn as they tucked into their coffees, cakes and, in Deborah’s case, a full English breakfast, whilst the have nots comprising Brian, Lawrence, Simon, Victor and myself were forced to sit outside in the freezing cold and wait ages for their coffee whilst also being told off at regular intervals by the smartly dressed waitress for leaving our bikes and items of clothing in the wrong places. Whipped cream coffee was strangely not on the menu.

The have nots at Poppy’s Barn

The 10th was also notable for punctures of all kinds. Gallant Howard firstly came to the assistance of an Ugley lady (actually, she was rather nice!) whose car had got a puncture but after half an hour of trying with only a can of sealant to do the job, he had to give up and the lady was left calling her son. Subsequent Windmillers offered help too and she said what a nice bunch we were! Then both Victor and Brian had punctures on their return leg home, Victor just managing to get there whilst a near-frozen Brian was whisked up by me and returned home by car.

The Christmas spirit was already flowing at Maurice’s on 14 December when Windmillers appeared at suitably spaced intervals to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine. And yet another puncture happened when Suzanne picked up a difficult to locate thorn which required her chief mechanic Graham to diligently find and repair.

The final ride of the year took place on 17th December on a nice sunny day but still with wet and muddy roads at times. Another £100 was raised which will go into the 2021 pot for distribution.

Two groups cycling in opposite directions meeting amongst the puddles near Farnham

Thanks galore are due to Maurice and Andrew for all their planning and organisation during the year and to those who hosted the charity box and provided refreshments whilst our CAC rides took place. Thanks also to fellow bloggers Brian, Simon and Graham. But, above all, we should thank every member for participating and being so generous during what has been one of the most challenging of years. We have managed to stay safe and healthy whilst at the same time having fun and raising a substantial amount for our chosen charities. WELL DONE ALL!

And now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the summary and prizegiving!

The longest distance prize

First prize Graham with an astonishing 13,458km. Second Rod – 3,256 miles. Third Andrew – 3,049 miles. Fourth Brian – 3, 040 miles (beaten by Andrew by just 9 miles)

The puncture prize

One each recorded by Maurice, Andrew, Martin, Deborah, Alan, Roger, Victor and Suzanne

Four recorded by Brian (yes four!) and so the prize goes equally to him and to Martin, who caused the most loss of time and cost on 22nd October – two exploding tubes, one exploding pump and two discharged CO2 cylinders.

The e-bike breakdown prize

When they go wrong, e-bikes are not the easiest of bikes to repair. Maurice’s gave up the ghost on 5 March, Geoff had problems with his gear control and Rod waited several weeks for a wheel repair before finally getting it sorted by a local chap. The prize goes to Rod.

The involuntary dismount prize

Unfortunately, there were several involuntary dismounts involving Rod on 6th January and again on 1st June, Graham on 5th July, Roger and Alan both on 16th July, Lindsay in March, Lawrence on 15th October and Charles on 26th November. The prize goes to Graham for a particularly spectacular fall on a gravelly junction, witnessed only by himself, which put him out of action for a while.

The dodgy bike prize

Bits fell off Simon’s bike on 23rd July, Andrew’s filthy chain again needed mending due to a dodgy link and Lawrence’s rear disc brake needed repairing on a trip to Aldeburgh. Andrew has won it several times in the past and so this year the prize goes to Simon.

The dodgy car prize

Having had a dodgy battery on two occasions, needing jump cables from Andrew in Upper Langley and also from a helpful lady in The White Swan at Conington, there is only one candidate for this prize. It also goes to Simon.

The getting lost prize

Maurice took a wrong turning on 10th September but found a £20 note whilst doing a U-turn, and then got properly lost towards the end of the ride when he and Howard strayed off route, Lindsay got lost on 21st September, Deborah couldn’t even find the start on 1st October having got lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire, but Simon got lost on 15th June and then again, big time (see above) on 1st October. So the prize goes to Simon. Well done – a hatrick!

The Good Samaritan prize

Sandra came to the rescue of Rod on 6th January, Victor and Brian helped another cyclist on 12th November, Howard came to the aid of a damsel in distress with a puncture in a wheel of her car (see above) but Deborah is the clear winner because of the amazing work she does for The Samaritans (often appearing for a ride with blurry eyes having done a night shift) and for rushing Mike to hospital in Chelmsford on 1st October.

The Mucky Pup prize

This goes to Roger for spoiling his smart new jacket on 13th February, closely followed by Andrew in second place. Roger wins a framed print of this pic:

The Springwatch / Autumnwatch prize

Alan spotted a fine looking stag on 26th October, Ken / Martin spotted a large herd of deer on 5th November (but there were probably countless other sightings not recorded) and Jenni / Deborah witnessed 10 Red Kites circling over Anstey – a fine display. Sandra’s spot of the barn owl in March was awesome but the prize goes to Jenni / Deborah jointly.

The longest ride to the start prize

Graham, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Geoff and Suzanne all have long rides to the start points, unless they use their cars of course. The prize goes to Brian.

The road rage prize

We try to be courteous to motorists at all times but the opposite does not always apply. Andrew had a run-in with a Volvo driver in Long Melford on 6th August and also with an angry lady in Upper Langley who asked him, not very politely, to not park outside her house. Rod also had an incident when riding his e-bike. The prize goes to Andrew who handles such situations very diplomatically.

The dapper dresser prize

No competition this year. Who could compete with Charles with his snazzy stripey socks, fancy shoes and Christmas jumper? The prize goes to Charles.

The poet of the year prize

No competition. The outright winner is Simon.

The Zoom prize

Again, no competition. The winner is Graham who we should thank heartily for setting up many post-ride Zoom meetings throughout the year

Other facts and figures

Prior to lockdown, birthdays were celebrated for Brian, Victor, Martin and Maurice. Thereafter we celebrated Rod’s on 10th July, Deborah’s on 16th July, Howard’s on 23rd July, Charles’s on 6th August and Lawrence’s on 26th November.

Blog stats

Despite the smaller number of blogs this year the number of visitors and views of http://www.thewindmillclub.org more than doubled over 2019

2019 2020

Views 1437 2996

Visitors 617 1312

No. of posts 72 63

Illnesses and ailments

John Bagrie had a hip operation early in the year from which he made a rapid recovery and was soon walking / cycling, including a week’s walking in the Lake District with Ken and Lawrence in early September.

Simon had a hernia operation from which he also recovered quickly, although it was somewhat worrying on one of his first rides to Ware that he reported having one black one and one white one. He’s in the pink now, that’s for sure.

Keith had an operation on his neck which had been giving him trouble for some time. We hope to see him out and about with us soon.

Andrew got stung badly by a hornet on 3rd September and had a nasty bout of food poisoning later that month but recovered well from both.

Mike was rushed to hospital in Chelmsford by Deborah on 10th September with a large leg swelling caused by a pedal bursting a blood vessel. He was released later in the day and was climbing mountains in France the following week.

Death

On this sombre final note, we lost one of best loved members, Vernon Gamon. RIP.

THE END

Martin

PS. If there are any errors or omissions they are all my fault. Let me know if anthing needs to be put right.

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17 December. CAC ride from Chrishall. 30 miles.

Charles’s house in Chrishall was the focal point for this last CAC ride on a Thursday before Christmas, and what a treat there was in store for the Windmillers who took part. The sun shone, the birds sang and everything seemed right in the world, except for Covid-19 and Brexit of course but we could at least forget those for a few pleasurable hours in the saddle.

Feeling a bit idle, Martin took his car to Chrishall overtaking Brian and Ken on the way and egging them on with shouts of ‘Allez allez’ through his open window. Many others rode to their start point too, putting Martin (and Simon) to shame. Rod also drove to Chrishall but was let off as he had much longer to get to the circuit and also was still without his e-bike. Brian had started from Great Shelford, Ric from Harston, Howard, Geoff, Deborah and Jenni from Saffron Walden, whilst Graham and Mike did their own thing and took a roundabout route from Ickleton via Newton and also managed a trip to Poppy’s Barn again. The prize for the furthest distance of the day probably goes to Brian.

In addition to the aforementioned, Maurice, Andrew, Roger and Alan also took part making 17 in all, a fantastic turnout. Here is the route taken:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5189260

With groups of up to six allowed under the regulations in force on the day, this enabled several small groups to ride together or to join up with others en route. Rod, Simon, Ken and Martin set off together in an AC direction and it wasn’t long before the familiar figure of Ric caught them up on the climb to Duddenhoe End. It was good to see him out again and to hear about what was going on in his garden.

Simon, Rod, Ric and Ken in Brent Pelham

After all the rain in recent days, the roads were inevitably wet and muddy, nowhere more so than between Albury and Farnham, and perhaps Violets Lane as well near Brent Pelham, but Rod’s group chickened out and decided not to even attempt Violets Lane which is notorious for mud and water at this time of year. Ken peeled off towards Clavering and home at that stage leaving the remaining four to continue their journey.

But the sun more than made up for the wet roads. It was just glorious and provided great opportunities for Simon to get creative once again with his photography.

Agricultural junk appeals to Simon. This collection and that in the photo above is near Farnham.
Spiralling ivy disguises the silhouettes of some of these trees

Rounding a corner near Farnham two groups of Windmillers suddenly met and stopped for a socially distanced chat across the road:

A socially distanced lake between Martin , Jenni and Deborah
Brian, Howard, Rod, Simon and Ric amongst the puddles

Saying farewell to the other group, Rod’s group started to debate where coffee might be had. The Three Horseshoes at Hazel End looked dead to the world, The Yew Tree in Manuden likewise but thoughts then turned to The Cricketers in Rickling Green and hey presto, the lights were on and we received a very warm and efficient welcome as we ordered coffee for all and large slices of cake for Rod and Simon. Sitting outside was pleasantly dry and quite warm in the sun.

Ric snacking at the Rickling Cricketers. Try saying that after a few pints.
Simon doing the Windmill salute, with the heavy mob on guard.

Arriving back at Charles’s, Rod’s group realised they had not seen many other riders – perhaps most were going in the same direction or was it because of stopping at The Cricketers? Deborah and Jenni were just departing and so the great display of puppy bonding by Deborah was sadly missed, but here’s a pic of the happy occasion:

Deborah bonding with her new puppy – lucky girl! Envy all round

The magnificent sum of £100 was raised for our charity fund.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route, Andrew for his organisation, Charles for hosting the charity box and providing beers, refreshments and biscuits (much appreciated) and Graham for hosting the evening’s Zoom session. A good time was had by all.

Martin

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14 December. MMMM- Mince pies and Mulled wine at Maurice’s on Monday

An invitation from Maurice to munch mince pies and wash them down with mulled wine was warmly welcomed by nine Windmillers who stopped off at his house in small groups to enjoy his and Lynn’s kind hospitality. The pies and saucepans of wine kept coming in vast quantities.

Using a CAC route which took in Chrishall, Duddenhoe End, the Langleys, Meesden, Anstey, Barkway, Barley and Great Chishill, enabled Andrew, Charles, Alan, Rod, Nick, Simon, Graham, Suzanne and Martin to call in at steady intervals and to socially distance whilst there. Deborah was hoping to come too but had to pull out due to other commitments, including puppy love.

This is where we went:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5188552

But not all went well at the start for Suzanne. Riding over from Abington and joining up with Graham and Martin in Ickleton, it wasn’t long before she suffered a puncture on the way to Elmdon and with just one tube available the chief mechanic, Graham, had to ensure that it was right first time. So the cause of the puncture required much forensic examination and it took some time and effort, not to mention the effort required to even detach the rear wheel, before a sliver of flint was discovered that had just penetrated the casing. Blowing the tyre up with a CO2 canister then blew the outer casing off the rim and so it was back to square one and a hand pump was used. Whilst all this was going on, Martin called Andrew to say we might be a wee bit late, Suzanne messaged him likewise and so once we got going again the best bet seemed to be to head direct to Maurice’s and get to the pies and the mulled wine before the others arrived.

Maurice had gone directly from Great Chishill to his house to greet the first visitors, who turned out to be Alan, Rod, Nick and Simon but they had all gone by the time Graham, Suzanne and Martin arrived, Alan reporting subsequently that he had beaten Maurice’s record of climbing from his house to the Barkway radio tower in time of just 9 over minutes or so. Well done Alan – let us know the exact time!

Luckily there were still some pies and wine left. Graham made a quick inspection of Maurice’s immaculate workshop and just as he, Suzanne and Martin were leaving, Andrew and Charles arrived having been circling clockwise. Charles looked particularly festive in his Christmas jumper which blended well with the Christmas decorations that Lynn had put up outside – see above. On the other hand, Martin looked somewhat garish in his new lemon yellow winter jacket from Decathlon.

Garish, or just plain lurid? Maurice can’t quite decide.

Suzanne had a flu jab appointment later on in Sawston and so the combination of the puncture delay and a couple of helpings of mince pies and mulled wine (by Graham and Martin, not Suzanne) chief mechanic Graham and his deputy decided to accompany Suzanne back via Barkway, Great Chishill and Duxford to ensure the jab was delivered in time.

This is the time of year when contrasts are made with previous years. This is how it was on 14 December 2017:

Thanks, Maurice and Lynn, for the delicious mince pies and mulled wine and it was great to hear that we raised a further £80 for the charities we support. Let’s hope that December 2021 will see a return to real festivities!

Martin

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30 November. Traditional murky muddy Monday. 22 miles.

Take a look at last week’s blog and compare the difference! OK, last week’s photo of Elmdon church was taken at 12.55pm and this one at 3.25pm but what a difference in the weather. Gone are the bright blue skies and suddenly Christmas is upon us with a tree all lit up outside the church. And the roads are murky and muddy – as traditional as Christmas itself.

There were some doubts expressed about whether or not to ride but Suzanne led the way by cycling over from Abington and then WhatsApping from Elmdon to encourage the doubters to give it a try. And so after a faltering start there were seven Windmillers in all who took part, the others being Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Graham, Deborah and Martin.

The route was a reverse of last Monday’s CAC ride, so no need to repeat the map here. Graham, Suzanne and Martin started AC from Elmdon, suitably socially distanced as there can only be a max of two people cycling together, but it wasn’t long before they spotted a lone cyclist sporting smart stripy socks heading towards them. It could only be Charles and so at that point Martin did a U-turn and cycled with him clockwise whilst Graham and Suzanne continued AC towards Chrishall.

But luckily for Charles and Martin it wasn’t raining much – just a few spits and spots at the start and finish mixed with the mud from farm vehicles to make the roads slippery and to coat bikes, shoes and clothing in a fine layer of filth. Charles was wisely taking it very easy on sharp corners having had a spill the previous Thursday and suffering from bruises as a result. Maurice reported rain when he started at 12.50 and Deborah got wet after starting at 2.40, finishing in the dark and wishing she had started earlier.

Meetings took place between Charles and Martin with Maurice near Rickling and then with Andrew, Graham and Suzanne in Stocking Pelham, outside the rebuilt but unopened Cock Inn in Stocking Pelham, where a planning dispute has been going on for years following the previous Grade 2 listed building being burnt down.

Charles and Martin decided to give Violets Lane near Brent Pelham a miss as it is notoriously muddy but the others seemed happy to give it a go – they must just love wallowing in the stuff.

The homeward leg was uneventful and quiet as we just missed the school run and so no Volvos, Mercs or Beemers to contend with. Luckily no tractors either as we already had more than our fair share of mud. Saying farewell to Charles in Chrishall, thanking him for his kind offer of shelter, Martin carried on and having stopped at 3.25 in Elmdon to take the photo of the church he then met up with Graham and Suzanne who appeared at almost the same time after their AC ride. All three cycled back to Ickleton and Suzanne continued in the gloom to Abington having clocked up another impressive 35 miles – another contender perhaps for the mega distance ride per year award? Mind you, Graham will be hard to beat any year.

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their planning. Well done to all for turning out.

Martin

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26 November. Bumper charity distribution ride. 32 miles.

In the absence of a Christmas lunch this year, Maurice chose today to announce the distributions to be made to the charities that The Windmill Club supports. An amazing £4,737 has been raised so far this year, as at 26 November, with £,4,600 distributed to charities closely associated with some of our members. The photo above, taken during a coffee break at Burwash Manor, shows Maurice handing over cheques to Deborah, for The Samaritans, and to Charles for Pets as Therapy. A complete list was provided by Andrew in a WhatsApp post which is repeated here:

Windmill Club Charity donations 2020
Maurice and I would like to thank you all for your amazingly generous donations to various Windmill Club charities in 2020 – As of last Thursday 20 November we have received £4,600 in donations and with nearly 5 weeks until the year end, we’re confident our target of £5,000 will be beaten.
To keep you informed here is a list of the charities we are supporting
Marie Curie Cancer £500

Arthur Rank Hospice. £500
East Anglian children’s hospice. £1000
Eve appeal for cancer. £1000

Samaritans. £1000
Pets as therapy. £500
Addenbrookes charitable trust. £150

We supported Arthur Rank follow the death of our dear friend Vernon.
The Samaritans are supported due to the sterling work Deborah does on a voluntary basis, working throughout the night and after a couple of hours sleep she out on one of our Thursday rides -amazing !!
Pets as Therapy are supported due to the wonderful work Charles
undertakes, with weekly visits to Addenbrookes Hospital and two residential homes in Saffron Walden, unfortunately curtailed due to Covid. Well done Charles!!
We will keep you full posted of the final total and in the meantim
e a heartfelt thanks from Maurice and I for your contributions and support throughout 2020.
Andrew

And with more rides still to come in 2020, there is every chance we might achieve our target of £5,000 for the year. In such a difficult year for fund raising by charities, Windmillers have dug deep into their pockets to raise this magnificent sum – over double the amount of £2,000 raised in 2019! Well done to all!

This ride was a repeat of last week’s ride in most respects, except the weather which was nicer on the whole but very cold, icy and slippery in places, as Charles found to his cost whilst rounding a corner in Haslingfield at the junction with Chapel Hill, but luckily escaped without injury. And there were thorns to contend with too, as Roger dicovered early on between Chrishall Grange and Ickleton Old Grange where several Windmillers stopped to lend a hand, Andrew supplying assistance and pliers in particular whilst others offered mainly sympathy. What a horrible task it is fitting a new tube on a cold frosty morning! Bad luck, Roger. Did Andrew mention Schwalbe Marathons by any chance?

It was a large gang of 17 Windmillers on this CAC ride, and it could have been more if Brian wasn’t still suffering from a bad back and if Victor had been able to make it. The forecast of freezing weather clearly doesn’t put off hardy Windmillers. Besides the aforementioned, the others were Lindsey, Ken, Howard, Graham, Geoff, Mike, Rod, Lawrence, Alan, Simon, Jenni and Martin, riding in ones and twos, and this is where we went:

Burwash Manor in Barton proved to be an excellent place, once again, to stop and warm up with good coffee, mince pies, scones and cakes. It’s well organised with lots of outside tables and clean toilets, so much to recommend it. Situated approximately half way around the ride, there was quite a large gathering of socially distanced Windmillers at one time.

Last week, Simon cruised around in wet weather but found the time to compose a poem about Hannibal, the Alliterative, Little Lecter of Littlebury who served a prison sentence for murdering the pigeons that had been eating his produce, but he didn’t care. (See last week’s blog!) This week, to be fair to the pigeons, he thought they should have their say and so here it is:

Being a kind pigeon isn’t easy they say
Up on this bare wire, amongst cold winds all day
No being a pigeon isn’t so easy as that
There’s hawks and starvation and that terrible cat


When you’re a pigeon and you get really old
You stand on a wire since your feet get quite cold
After flying around they can feel just like ice
Please turn on your kettle, because that feels quite nice


Mum taught me to stay until my feet were quite dried
Not too long though, since sadly my Dad, he got fried
At school for pigeons the teachers did not mention
Never told him, avoid ones labelled high tension

We know we’re a noisy, nuisance eating your grain 
But it’s dark and its winter, it even might rain
Now I can’t sleep, the next bird, loudly is snoring
We ate all your buds, because lock-down is boring

Little did we know that Simon is a professor of poetry as well as chemistry!

Another reason for celebrating was that it was Lawrence’s birthday but, sadly, there was no pub available for him to buy a round of drinks. Don’t worry, Lawrence, we’ll add you to the long list of non-celebrated birthdays this year particularly as pubs will need all the support they can get post-Covid.

Geoff was still shaking with cold when arriving back at Martin’s gate and was warmed up with a mug of coffee before continuing his journey home. Others enjoyed a beer, and many thanks to Graham for kindly topping up the beer supplies.

All in all a very special day and an eventful day all rolled into one. Thanks again to Maurice for being the inspiration behind The Windmill Club and Andrew for all the time he spends organising us.

Martin

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23 November. CACing around. 22 miles.

Bringing the departure time forward to 1.00pm enabled a pleasant CAC ride to take place in good light on this late November day. Maurice created an interesting circuit, resembling a map of England (minus Devon and Cornwall), Scotland and Wales, and it was joined at various places by nine Windmillers.

The C brigade comprised Maurice, Andrew, Lindsey, Martin, Suzanne, Nick and Deborah, whilst the ACers were Rod and Charles, which explains why the C brigade didn’t meet many others. Martin and Suzanne were mainly responsible for this, having disobeyed orders by going Clockwise, Martin’s excuse being that he was getting giddy going AC in recent weeks.

This is where we went:

Despite the lovely weather, this proved not to be the ornithological extravaganza that we had the previous week when 10 red kites were seen circling over Anstey. The occasional buzzard was spotted but that was about it, at least as far as Martin and Suzanne were concerned. Perhaps the others had better luck but there have been no reports on WhatsApp of anything special being spotted. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to CAC around in. (Note that CAC can be used as both a verb and adjective but has not yet made the OED.)

Maurice cycled alone which generally results in faster speeds as there is no opportunity to get stuck into a discussion /debate with a cycling companion, which seems to reduce the average speed. He therefore did some overtaking in Berden and was then seen chatting briefly to Rod and Charles before accelerating away at high speed.on his e-bike.

Ending the ride by 3.00pm enabled Suzanne to cycle back in daylight to Abington, clocking up a total of 35 miles in the process, which was a big improvement on the previous week when it was cold, dark and wet.

Thanks go as always to Maurice for planning the route and Andrew for his organisation. Where would we be without those stalwarts?

Martin

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5 November. Back to CAC. 30 miles.

This should have been Vernon’s memorial ride but instead it became a CAC ride as a result of the new lockdown. 18 responsible Windmillers therefore set forth singly or in pairs on clockwise and anti-clockwise rides around a route which had been used during the previous lockdown, enabling almost all to join near to where they lived. Those going clockwise were Geoff, Andrew, Howard, Alan, Brian, Graham, Mike, Simon and Roger whilst those going anti-clockwise were Martin, Ken, Lawrence, Charles, Maurice, Rod, Deborah, Jenni and Nick. There was plenty of waving to those passing in the opposite direction.

This is where we went:

The weather was nearly perfect for a November day – a misty start in places which soon cleared to reveal bright sun on higher ground, no wind and quite mild. Maurice hosted the charity box, which added a further £107 to the magnificent sum of £4k+ already raised this year but, as Rod said recently, ‘Let’s make it over £5k by the year end’. Maurice also generously provided some beers, in return for a larger donation to the box of course. But lugging a 500ml bottle of Adnam’s Southwold up the hill to Barkway was Martin’s excuse for taking longer than usual. (10.45am just seemed too early to consume a beer at Maurice’s but it went down a treat at the end of the ride.)

Rod also observed recently that CAC rides can lack the support of others when things go wrong, as they did on this ride for Alan (puncture, but he got home after several pump-ups) and Geoff (unknown problem but he got home ok). All being well, there should be someone heading in the opposite direction or coming from behind, depending on the start and finish times.

Different Windmillers see different things when out on a ride. How did Ken and Martin, and perhaps others too, miss the pumpkin field? Deborah and Jenni not only saw it but Deborah got amongst them too (see photo above) and Simon stopped to take some really arty farty photos which make the field look more like a lunar landscape:

And here are some more taken on Simon’s ride:

Graham was clearly in a photogenic mood too:

Ken and Martin meanwhile were spotting the wildlife:

And here are some pics of some of those taking part:

All got back to base safely and to end the day Graham organised a Zoom session at 6.00pm to recount tales. A good time was had by all.

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organising the day and to Simon, Graham and Brian for some of the pics. And thanks again to Maurice for the beers.

Martin

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2 November. Lockdown is a-comin’ agin. 19 miles.

After several happy weeks under the Rule of Six and Tiers 1 and 2 which enabled almost normal rides and pub lunches to take place, but requiring some CAC adjustments at times, this ride involving just six Windmillers was about as normal as they come. However, the debacle over the lockdown announcement on 31 October instead of 2 November, due to a leaky Minister, meant that we knew before setting off that this would be the last ‘proper’ ride for at least a month. Sadly, this meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for 5 November but we will look forward to arranging a new date once we can all get together properly again.

In the expectation of Maurice being able to present Moira with a lovely framed photograph of Vernon this week, Brian, who very kindly organised the printing and framing of the photo, cycled from Shelford to The Red Cow in Chrishall with it on board. But due to the imminent new lockdown Moira had very sensibly decided to spend the month with her daughter and so the photo will be presented to her at a future date. Here it is in the back of Maurice’s car:

So, it was Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Alan and Martin who set off in a group of six from The Red Cow around our lanes on this sunny autumnal day. This is where we went:

All went well as far as the Shaftenhoe End / Little Chishill junction where there was a significant traffic jam, the likes of which we have never seen before, caused by a large delivery vehicle, a tractor and several cars not to mention six cyclists all of whom had to reverse / do a U-turn, to enable the delivery vehicle to pass, with a very harrassed-looking driver at the wheel. Astonishingly, we saw the same vehicle coming towards us again on a narrow lane in the vicinity of Meesden with the driver looking even more unhappy, having nearly ended up in a ditch to avoid us. Let’s hope he wasn’t on commission of 50p per delivery.

The sun was low in the sky by the time we reached Langley Upper Green, which enabled some fine photographs to be taken:

At this point, Martin’s new chain and cassette started slipping a gear or two and so engineer Andrew said he would tweak the cable adjuster half a turn which should sort it out. Result: some improvement but more tweaking / investigation needed.

It looked like a good sunset was in store, and indeed it was:

Back at The Red Cow we received a warm welcome and enjoyed a socially distanced pint on 3 separate tables, followed by some ordering fish and chips from the van outside before departing for home with a full moon to light the way.

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

Martin

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9 November. First Monday CAC ride. 20 miles

The CAC acronym, invented by The Windmill Club, is now generally known by Windmillers as meaning Clockwise Anti-Clockwise and has proved to be a most useful way of continuing our rides during periods of lockdown whilst obeying all the rules. But what is it about CAC rides that seems to bring members out in larger numbers than on normal rides? Is it a reaction against being told to lockdown (but are we really a rebellious lot?) or is it the convenience of starting and finishing a ride near to home and being convivial at the same time? Perhaps CAC could also stand for Convenience and Conviviality? Other suggestions on a postcard, please.

So we had 10 Windmillers setting out either singly or in pairs on a route devised by Maurice, who went clockwise along with Charles, Deborah / Jenni, and Simon. Those going anti-clockwise were Andrew / Lindsey, Nick and Lawrence / Martin. This is where we went:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5172574

Maurice was the first person that Lawrence and Martin met, in Heydon, followed by Charles near Barkway golf course and Simon near Meesden, who had time to remove his helmet and get stuck into a big debate with Lawrence about the role of consultants in life. The consensus was that they are generally ripping off the taxpayer but Martin said why not become one if the Government chooses to throw our money around liberally? Ten minutes later we decided it might start to get dark and so we pedalled on. Then we met Deborah and Jenni who were clearly enjoying a nice autumnal ride. Here they all are:

Meanwhile, Andrew was on the look out as usual for roadkill, having been known in the past to stuff anything that looks tasty into his bike bag, dead or alive, including a solitary onion once. But on this occasion it wasn’t a pheasant or partridge or even the deer which he was seen eyeing up in a ditch near Chrishall recently, but some lovely looking quinces and an Ice Plant:

The quinces need no explanation but this is what Google has to say about Ice Plant: Crunchy, juicy and with a gentle marine-like salinity, the ice plant is surprisingly versatile as an ingredient. You can eat it raw – the fleshy leaves are great in salads, giving the dish a nice salty crispiness; or steep it in boiling water to make tea. … As it is mainly made of water, the ice plant is low in calories – sounds like the perfect diet for Andrew!

We didn’t see Nick but he reported having had to modify the route due to not having charged up his battery beforehand. But it appears he needn’t have worried as he got back with plenty of oomph left. The range of some of those modern e-bikes is just amazing.

Thanks to all for taking part and particularly Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and Simon who provided the wonderful topiary photo above – enough to scare off any nasty virus.

Martin

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26 October. A rutting good CAC ride. 20 miles.

Once again, it was The Red Cow at Chrishall for the meeting place on this autumnal Monday ride. Is it the convenient location, is it the cosy interior now that the evenings are getting chilly or is it the fish and chip van in the pub’s car park which gets going just as a ride finishes that makes it so popular? Whatever the reason, it resulted in another good turnout of nine Windmillers to enjoy a circuit of local lanes, in two groups, one going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise making this another CAC ride.

With the clocks having just gone back an hour, 3.00pm was pushing our luck a bit for setting off, given that we started at 3.30pm the week before. But the weather made all the difference – a bright, sunny afternoon which lasted for a couple of hours compared to a cloudy end to the previous Monday.

Maurice’s group included Charles, Sandra, Nick and Simon whilst Andrew’s group included Alan, Rod and Martin. As usual, Maurice shot off at high speed on his e-bike, anti-clockwise, leaving the others trailing in his wake whilst Andrew’s group freewheeled merrily down to the Wendens Ambo road before climbing up to Duddenhoe End. This is where we went:

We are used to seeing a wide variety of wild life on our rides but Andrew’s group were thrilled to spot a very large stag near Meesden, thanks to sharp-eyed Alan, strutting his stuff (the stag not Alan) on open fields looking for his next conquest. He was a magnificent beast and was seen again close up the other side of Meesden with a smile on his face. Had he just had a quick rut we wondered? Martin was slow on the draw with his camera and the stag soon galloped off having presumably got a whiff of his next romantic encounter, but this is what he looked like:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is stag-pic.jpg

With decreasing light, Andrew’s group decided not to call in at Maurice’s house but, in any event, whilst rocketing down the long hill from the Barkway ridge we saw the others crawling up in the opposite direction. They still had a long way to go, no doubt due to Maurice’s hospitality, and indeed they returned to The Red Cow some time after Andrew’s group.

The sun was just setting behind the Great Chishill windmill as Andrew’s group climbed up to the village, which enabled the featured photo above to be taken. Of all the windmills we pass on our travels this one seems to have a majestic beauty about it.

Portions of chips with spicy mayo and tomato sauce washed down with a pint of Wherry proved to be a very good end to a rutting good ride.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the ride.

Martin

P.S. What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idea.

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Monday rides

19 October. Mushrooms galore. 21 miles.

Knowing of the typical Windmiller’s love of mushrooms, following the monster specimens found on 15 October, Deborah very kindly offered to go hunting for more and brought a massive box full of field mushrooms collected from a field near Ashdon, the whereabouts of which is a closely guarded secret. The box was soon emptied and conversations then held about the best recipe for mushroom soup. But a bucket full of bramley apples that Deborah also brought along was not so popular and so Martin took the lot and will be enjoying apple pie for the next few months.

A good turnout of 10 Windmillers at The Red Cow in Chrishall on this pleasant autumnal day meant that two groups of five would cycle separately around the lanes, but exactly where was a mystery to those in Maurice’s group A of Rod, Charles, Nick and Martin. As a result, Andrew’s group B of Sandra, Simon, Deborah and Lindsey headed off first in the general direction of Duddenhoe End, followed at a visible distance by the others. Maurice shot up the first hill on his e-bike towards Hamlet Church but took a left towards Arkesden without waiting for the others in the group who, arriving puffing and panting at the same junction, wondered where he had gone. Seeing some hi-viz jackets by Hamlet Church suggested that might be the way to go but having eventually caught them up there was no sign of Maurice. So there was nothing for it but to phone him and arrange a rendezvous at the two windmills, hoping he was not suffering from being lonely. Meanwhile, Group B continued on their merry way.

This is where the lost souls of Group A went:

Maurice’s route took in Arksden and Clavering whereas Group B went anti-clockwise from Langley Upper Green.

Having reconvened, Group A then met Group B at the muddy end of Violet’s Lane, luckily still passable:

Nick peeled off from Group A on the return leg after Brent Pelham and both groups arrived back at the Red Cow at around the same time, where some stayed to enjoy an outside pint and to put the world to rights.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route, even if it did result in a lasoo for most of Group A, and to Andrew for organising us.

Martin

15 October. The ABC of ride organisation. 32 miles.

Oh, the joys of ride organisation in these Covid days! First we had CAC rides, now we have ABC rides but it is not quite as simple as ABC. Planning routes, finding suitable pubs, staying Covid-compliant, organising groups and getting members to the start line on time for a scheduled departure is quite a feat and we have Maurice and Andrew to thank hugely for their efforts on our behalf.

This ride from The Black Bull in Balsham was soon oversubscribed but Windmillers are a creative lot and soon found a solution to the problem by organising a separate group starting and finishing at The Three Hills at Bartlow, thanks to Geoff and Brian putting their heads together. So Groups A and B, comprising 11 riders, did the route clockwise, 15 minutes apart, and Group C went anti-clockwise, making this the first ever ABCAC ride! No doubt more will follow before we are free of the Covid plague.

This is where we went:

Sadly, whilst en route to Balsham, Rod had a collision with a Wincanton lorry being driven fast and dangerously (witnessed separately by Martin) but luckily it was only his wing mirror that got destroyed. It could so easily have been a lot worse. This resulted in a slight delay as Rod went back down the road to try and retrieve bits of the mirror.

Group A, comprising Maestro Maurice, Howard, Mike, Roger, Lawrence and Martin led the way at 9.15am followed by Group B with Deputy Dawg Andrew, Rod, Ken, Victor and Andrew. Group C also left around the same time, judging by the place where Group A met them between Bartlow and the A1307, when we did our best not to mingle – see photo above. Unfortunately for Lawrence, whilst stopping at the junction with the dreaded A1307, he collided with Howard who was waiting patiently to cross and the impact threw Lawrence off his bike sideways to laand on his hip joint. ‘Ouch’, he said, or words to that effect. It wasn’t long before a bruise was surely to emerge and by the end of the ride he was decidely uncomfortable.

Group A’s ride otherwise went well and they were overtaken during their coffee break by Group B who then took a wrong turning allowing A to regain the lead and get back to the Black Bull first in line for a beer, but drenched to the skin due to a downpour during the last few miles, during which they spotted John Bagrie heading in the opposite direction. Much steam was to be seen in front of the roaring fire in the pub.

Here comes the cavalry

Here’s a report from Andrew’s Group B:

Group B 

Faithfully congregated at Balsham with Hot Rod missing a major component from his new Mazda wing mirror having made contact with a Wincanton lorry en route to Balsham 

A quick return visit to the scene of the crime failed Rod’s attempt to recover the wing mirror part .

Five windy millers  Andrew, Rod, Allan , Ken and Victor eventually left on a 32 mile beautifully planned route sculpted by  supremo  route master Maurice 

Only 3 miles into the ride we past Group C going in the opposite direction led by Brian C 

Our ride was mainly uneventful apart from the occasional rain shower ,

The coffee refreshment stop took place at Birdbrook opposite a disused farm 

To our surprise we bumped into Maurice’s Group A who elected to have a late refreshment stop . There was much shouting from Group A instructing Group B not to stop in fear of perhaps catching the dreaded C disease from the Essex contingent.

Approx five miles to the end of the ride we encountered a solo very familiar cyclist heading in the opposite direction- it could only be John Bagrie and it was the man himself.

A slight detour into a main ride saw us back at Balsham for 12.20 ready an eager to tuck into hearty ales and a well prepared lunch.

A good time was had by all.

And here’s Brian’s report:

Andrew’s instructions to Group C were clear and – following last week’s escapades – perfectly understandable: Do not lose Simon! So it was that Geoff, Deborah, Jenni, Brian and Simon set out from The Three Hills, Bartlow, going clockwise and looking forward to seeing our pals in Groups A and B coming the other way. Sure enough, and after less than a few miles, we passed Maurice’s gang, followed some ten minutes later by Andrew’s; both groups glad to see Simon was still with us.

Cheery waves were exchanged and we continued on, pulling over occasionally to admire the autumnal colours and curiosities; notable of which were the field mushrooms, pictured below (with Brian, for a sense of scale).

Not mushroom for these in Brian’s saddlebag. (Ed.)

Mid-way around the circuit, Geoff introduced us to the delights of Tarka’s Café, Baythorne End. Hitherto unknown to the Windmillers, the coffee and cake were excellent. We must return.

The return leg to Bartlow passed uneventfully and we enjoyed a good lunch and a few beers at The Three Hills.

Strong focus on eating and drinking by Group C

———————————————————————-

It was great to have John Bagrie join Groups A & B during lunch and to catch up with him whilst examining archive copies of the Manchester Evening News from the 1970’s in The Black Bull. Nothing much changes – tanks at Heathrow airport and flu epidemics etc etc..

Thanks again to our organisers Maurice and Andrew in achieving the first ever Windmill Club ABCAC ride.

Martin

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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