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:
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.
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:
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.
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):
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
And the second sign below describes how good it was to be out and about again on a Monday ride with the Windmill Club:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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!
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
It was good to be back at The Bull, Lower Langley, for a Monday ride even though a 3.00pm start meant that it was a bit gloomy towards the end. But opening time is an all important consideration and The Bull does not open until 5.00pm, and so it was lights blazing as Andrew, Rod, Charles, Nick and Martin cruised around the lanes.
Nick was the proud owner of a flashy new Cannondale e-bike which looked the part with its drop handlebars and which had a fine turn of speed. Charles, Andrew and Martin had trouble keeping up with him and Rod, and planned to secretly hitch tow ropes on them in future. This is where we went:
Heading firstly towards Little Chishill we took a right towards Builden End up a well surfaced track which Rod and Martin did in the opposite direction a few weeks back – a very useful short cut to / from Chrishall and beyond, and a popular place for Charles to walk his dogs. Thereafter it was up to Chrishall and through Elmdon towards Ickleton, turning right to Strethall Crossroads, until we spied a familiar figure jogging towards us at a steady pace – Simon Oughton – who was on a circuit from Elmdon via the woods between there and Catmere End. Stopping for a chat resulted in a very generous invitation from Simon for us to call in and have a beer any time we are passing. Thanks, Simon, I’m sure we’ll soon take you up on that!
Passing Simon T’s house in Littlebury Green we were soon descending at speed down to the Wendens Ambo road where we took a left and then a right up the timed course for cyclists towards Arkesden, which we achieved in around 8 minutes compared to the fastest time by a competitor recently of just 2 minutes. It was very noticeable how much water there was in the stream running alongside the road opposite the Axe and Compasses, which is usually dry.
By this time it wasn’t exactly dark but we were grateful to have good lights whilst mums were on their school runs whizzing around the lanes. Nick’s back light was particularly penetrating despite its size. Perfect timing saw us back at The Bull just as the door was opening, where the usual warm welcome was received and a good natter had with the regulars.
Due to some bloggers being on holiday or otherwise indisposed, it has not been possible to record all of our January rides in the usual visual and descriptive manner. However, Andrew has provided a list of those rides not already kindly blogged by Brian:
13 Jan Anstey 22 miles
20 Jan Thriplow 20 miles
27 Jan ride cancelled
9 Jan Therfield. Victors Birthday ride 31 miles
16 Jan Braughing to Ware 30 miles
February should see us back to our usual routine. In the meantime, our new book ‘The Windmill Club – our 2019 rides’ makes interesting bedtime reading and much amusement on these cold and dark winter days:
The thought of tucking into some delicious tapas has produced a number of rides from the Green Man in Thriplow, particularly on recent Mondays when the daylight diminishes rapidly after 3.00pm. So, once again, five Windmillers comprising Andrew, Ken, Simon, Graham and Martin gathered at noon at the Green Man for a ride around the lanes, with the Ickletonians having cycled there.
It was another glorious pre-Christmas day as the group set off on a ride devised by Martin to work up an appetite for Christmas turkey and all the trimmings.
The first stop was Lawrence’s house in Fowlmere as he had threatened to join us but shopping had got the better of him. So on we went via Chrishall Grange and up a short but infamous hill Bastardo which looks like a gentle incline from a distance but gets steadily steeper towards the top. Andrew had chosen to bring a mountain bike, thinking that Martin had included a muddy off road stretch, and the heavy old thing proved to be not so good at climbing hills (i.e. the bike, not Andrew!).
That was the hard part over. Thereafter it was on to Strethall Crossroads, left to Ickleton, across Ickleton recreation ground and on towards Hinxton Ford which was closed to traffic due to the high water level.
Then it was through Duxford, Whittlesford and back to Thriplow via Newton instead of using the muddy track between Whittlesford and Thriplow where Andrew would have been in his element.
An excellent tapas lunch followed after which we bid each other a Merry Christmas and set off to wrap up the presents.
This is where we went:
A very Merry Christmas to one and all and a happy and healthy 2020.
Was this a record we all wondered, just 8 weeks from having a new knee installed? And it wasn’t just a ride around the block but a full 19 miles that Maurice achieved on his e-bike around the lanes on this pleasant winter’s afternoon. Starting earlier than usual for a Monday ride at midday, from The Green Man in Thriplow, enabled the group of 8 Windmillers to not only make the most of the daylight but to indulge in tasty tapas and some fine beer on their return.
Joining Maurice were Andrew, Lawrence, Rod, Graham, Ric, John and Martin on a route which was to go northwards via Comberton and back via Harlton, Haslingfield, Barrington and Foxton. The map below is not quite where we went, having cut out the planned off road stretch between Harlton and Barrington and cycling up Chapel Hill from Haslingfield instead, which was somewhat drier and a bit shorter:
There was only one slight problem as we gathered at The Green Man – Rod had forgotten to bring the battery for his heavy e-bike but, undeterred and in true Windmiller gutsy style there was no dropping out. Rod decided to go for it and made it back just before his own battery went flat. Well done Rod, and Maurice too who had his battery control set on max but still tended to pedal with his left leg only…………
Luckily it was flat most of the way with little wind and the lanes were pleasantly quiet, except between Barton and Comberton but a cycle path for the school kids came in useful on that stretch.
Chapel Hill in Haslingfield was the real tester but both Rod and Maurice sailed up it with ease after which it was a nice freewheel downhill to Barrington and then left to Foxton, where a convenient cycle crossing over the railway line cuts out the notorious barriers which have been known to stay down for 15 minutes at a time on occasions.
After Foxton there was a bit of a headwind which was tough for Rod but we were soon whizzing back to Thriplow from Fowlmere, ready to tuck into some tapas. However, being a popular pre-Christmas pub, we had to prop up the bar for a while until a table was made ready after which we could settle down, practice our Scrabble skills and enjoy some delicious tapas.
It was good to find a friend of Martin and also Glen Ryan, Karen Broomhead, eating in the pub with her family:
There was also a despondent group of local LibDems drowning their sorrows, but they got close!
All agreed that another trip was necessary in the near future to try out some more tapas.
Well done, once again, to Maurice for achieving such progress so soon after his knee operation, and to Rod who will probably not forget his battery ever again!
Little did we know when fixing the date for the Christmas Lunch that it would coincide with Election Day but, thankfully, politics was not on the menu when 37 Windmillers and guests sat down to an excellent lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. Here is the delicious menu, all cooked to perfection by landlord Peter’s wife Jess (Peter also being an occasional Windmiller):
Gathering at noon for a 1.00pm start enabled plenty of time to chat beforehand, and also for Graham to dry out, having cycled from Ickleton in appalling weather – wet, cold and a strong headwind. If anyone was in need of a beer, he was.
Here we all are, thanks to Brian’s photos, getting in the mood for Christmas and celebrating a great year of cycling:
And after a glass of wine or three:
After lunch, Andrew sprang to his feet dressed smartly in his tartan trews, and welcomed members (who he described as a bunch of bastards – more later) and their guests to the lunch, the fifth he has organised since 2015 and which has nearly doubled in size from 20 to 37 guests. He thanked Peter and Jess, our hosts, and then welcomed Glen Ryan and Bridget Tarrington saying how much we all miss Kell and John, who sadly died in January. He also welcomed our new members and newcomers to the lunch – Charles and Fiona, Nick and Kath, Neil, Deborah, Howard and Lisa, and Frances.
Thanks were also given by Andrew to Maurice our leader for his help, guidance, route planning and managing our charity funds, whilst also wishing a continued speedy recovery from his recent knee operation. He thanked those who had donated bikes that were sold to raise the additional princely sum of £377 for charity – Vernon, Bridget and Simon O.
Due to Maurice being out of action towards the latter part of the year and Andrew cruising around on holiday, he also thanked those who had volunteered to organise rides – Simon T, Brian, Graham, Geoff, Victor, Sandra, Ken and Martin. These had provided a variety of interesting new routes which we look forward to repeating in the future.
As well as cycling around the Windmill Club territory and other parts of the UK, Andrew mentioned his ride across Brittany and Normandy in June with Lawrence, accompanied by Ken and Ann for part of the way plus Martin and Penny tagging along by car. A good time was had by all, except for Andrew’s four punctures on the same day.
Martin then staggered to his feet, stripping off his jacket as he did so but left it at that. Having analysed the year’s blog (www.thewindmillclubdotnet.wordpress.com) he provided a review of 2019 as follows:
No. of blog visitors: 562 to date (472 in whole of 2018) from 19 countries.
No. of views: 1,333 to date (1,397 in whole of 2018). Total views since inception, 6,899.
No. of rides: 66 to date – possibly more due to some Monday rides not being blogged but several cancellations due to weather (77 same time 2018).
Total distance recorded to date: 1,792 miles (1,994 in 2018). Longest ride: 51 miles to Ely on 4/4/. Shortest ride: 14 miles on 1/7 (referred to also later).
Largest total mileage by members to date (those with Strava records): 1. Graham – 6,426. 2. Sandra – 4,337. 3. Brian – 2,800. 4. Andrew – 2,578. Ric had probably clocked up an appreciable distance too.
Martin then said what a great year it had been for rides and thanked Maurice for his impeccable planning and also those who Andrew had mentioned earlier, as well as Andrew himself who not only organised many rides, Mondays in particular, but also carried out the bulk of the admin in running the club. Martin also thanked Brian in particular for his help on the blog and his wonderful photographs, and also Sandra who happily contributes whenever needed.
Andrew’s reference earlier to being a bunch of bastards picked up on a description of The Windmill Club given by new member Charles Joint on his first outing earlier in the year, and which has since become part of our folklore. Martin had to agree totally with Charles when, after returning from a bout of illness on 1/7 and starting the ride after Maurice, Andrew and Keith had set off, he discovered they were holed up in Elmdon having a beer with Simon and Ollie. They invited him to join them but he was near Duddenhoe End by that time, calling them all in similar terms over the phone to those used by Charles, and so all met up eventually at The Bull in Lower Langley.
No. of pubs visited. 28 (22 in 2018). Most frequented were The Bull and The Tally Ho ( 9 apiece) but most popular for lunch were The Fleur de Lys in Widdington and The Golden Fleece (5 apiece).
Largest no. of riders: 16 on 31/10. The smallest was 2 on 18/11.
Accidents, illnesses and ailments: Luckily, no major accidents this year, just a few illnesses and ailments with complete recovery by all concerned. After last year’s hip replacement Maurice showed once again his ability to recover quickly from major surgery by meeting for lunch on 31/10 in Boxworth after a ride that Ken organised, just 2 weeks after his operation. An operation of particular note was Andrew’s DIY replacement of a tooth with Super Glue.
Involuntary Dismount Prize 2019.: There were several candidates including Chris, Victor, Brian, Charles, Graham (not on a Windmill ride) and Nick (likewise). Victor had 2 dismounts but sprang up quickly from both but Brian had a spectacular low speed splat in Ware, which won him the prize.
Best suntan: Roger, who was busy topping it up again skiing in Tignes, and Maurice jointly. Maurice always has a ruddy glow about him.
Top speed prize 2019: Andrew, for clocking up 34mph descending from Littlebury Green whilst dodging the badgers.
Storyteller prize 2019: For good stories ranging from how to grab a bargain in charity shops to getting rid of stoats in an attic to learning about the discovery of DNA and readings of Rupert Brooke’s poetry, this prize went to Simon T.
Puncture prize 2019: Candidates included Brian, Roger, Keith (2 apiece) and Graham (3) but for making members wait in the polluted entrance of the Blackwall Tunnel whilst he attempted to replace a punctured tube with some dreadful patched up tubes, Martin’s solitary puncture gained him the prize.
Dodgy bike prize 2019: Once again, several candidates including Maurice (jammed chain), Andrew (broken gear support, again) and Victor (front brake jammed on). But for pedalling effectively uphill across the Fens for 40 miles and getting thoroughly exhausted in the process, the prize went to Victor.
Ferry bad prize 2019: For leading a ride all the way from Newbourne to the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry on 28/3 and finding that the ferry did not start operating for another 10 days, necessitating a U-turn, this prize was awarded to Maurice.
Going AWOL prize 2019: For steaming down a cycleway alongside the A12 on 8/8 whilst everyone else was turning left to Dunwich, this prize went to Deborah. Graham was given a special mention for chasing after her and returning her to the flock.
Doubting Thomas prize 2019: For not believing Martin on 6/9 when he said a ferry would arrive on a desolate shingle beach to take everyone back to Brightlingsea, only to discover that a snazzy rubber dinghy with a drop down loading ramp skippered by the harbourmaster did indeed arrive more or less on time, this prize was awarded jointly to Maurice, Andrew, Keith, Brian, Roger, Ric, Deborah, Charles and Graham. Lawrence had been included in the list but he claimed he always had utter faith and so his name was removed.
Hi-tech prize 2019: Excluding Strava users, there were 3 candidates – Geoff, Rod and Charles. Geoff has a fancy OS app on his phone, complete with extra power pack, which gives turn by turn instructions. Rod has a powerful e-bike which can send him a message if it gets nicked but the winner was Charles with his smart helmet which has Bluetooth, a microphone and a speaker which plays a regimental march at 6.30pm when it’s time to lock his chickens up, not to mention a flashing rear light. On top of this he has a smart watch with which he can pay bills in a pub. Say no more!
Mud prize 2019: By rights this prize should have gone to Andrew for leading a ride down a very rutted and muddy track between Widdington and Little Henham on 11/7 but for guaranteeing ‘a mud free ride or your money back’ on 28/11 the prize was awarded by a thin margin to Brian. For proof, see the photo of Deborah’s posterior.
At this point, just when heckling was about to take place due the time Martin had taken over his review, he handed the floor back to Andrew and Maurice for the most important part of the lunch – the awarding of the Windmill Club’s special awards for 2019 and the announcement of how much we had raised for charity and the recipients of the funds.
The first special award, the Golden Pedal, is awarded for regular attendance and general contribution to the Club’s activities. This year it was given to Graham for not only his contribution, including organising a ride on 5/12, but for clocking up an astonishing 6,426 miles as at 8/12 which is likely to be nearer to 7,000 by the end of the year if he keeps up the same average. That’s more than many people drive in a year. He has also climbed over 200 miles during this time! Well done, Graham!
The second award, the Senior Veteran Clubman of the Year, was presented to Vernon who, despite being in his 80th year, is a very regular attendee and continued cycling despite health issues. He is wonderful company socially and always popular on his birthday when he buys all the drinks! His first ride with the Windmill Club was in Feb 2013.
Maurice then announced that thanks to the Club having had another good year, £2,000 had been raised for charity, which was greeted with much applause. The recipients this year will be The EVE Appeal, the breast cancer charity (£250), The Cystic Fibrosis Trust (£250), Headway – the brain injury association (£1,000) and Macmillan Nurses (£500).
Finally, Maurice presented The Windmill Clubman of the Year Award to the person who works tirelessly for the club, handling the majority of the admin, organising rides, organising the Christmas lunch (with the help of his wife) and generally being the Super Glue of the club. And that person was Andrew – well applauded and well deserved!
And so another Christmas lunch drew to a close. We look forward to another good year in 2020 and wish all members and their families a very Happy Christmas.
Andrew was busy beating (birds, not carpets) and so Martin offered to organise a shortish ride from The Green Man in Thriplow, on what seemed early in the day to be a ride that might be cancelled due to high winds. But with a forecast of sun and less wind as the day went on it seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, and so it proved to be.
Simon and Charles were the other takers for the 13.30 start. Meeting in the bar beforehand we bumped into Lawrence who was not dressed in his snazzy new cycle outfit, modelled recently on Garret Hostel Lane bridge in Cambridge, but in serious lunching gear having met a couple of chums there. And what a good place it is to eat too. The roaring fire and good ales makes it a fine pub to visit on a winter’s day.
Charles was suffering from a bad back having slipped down some stairs just a day or so earlier at a swimming pool in Abu Dhabi and so was high on pain killers. Well done, Charles, for giving it a go and after a long flight too. That’s Windmill stamina for you.
This is where we went, anticlockwise:
The stretch from Fowlmere to Flint Cross on the A505 was blissfully quiet due to the road being dug up in the centre of Fowlmere. (There are so many similar roads that one wonders if Jeremy Corbyn’s free broadband for all has already started?)
It was still distinctly windy but the long climb from Flint Cross to Great Chishill was an absolute breeze (ugh!) with the wind dead behind. All it needed was a small sail and no pedalling would have been required. Half way up we had to stop, not from exertion but to take in what must be one of the finest views in South Cambridgeshire, looking towards a copse near Heydon:
Once at the top of the Great Chishill mountain it was more or less downhill all the way from Heydon to Chrishall Grange which was just as well as the wind was on our noses. Then it was down Grange Road to Duxford with the wind behind before re-crossing the A505 at Whittlesford and taking an off road track back to Thriplow which, thankfully, was not too muddy.
Thanks to Charles and Simon for joining me on the ride. Hopefully, Charles will be less black and blue by the time of the Christmas lunch.
The Flitch Way used to be a single track railway line between Bishops Stortford and Braintree but, thanks to Dr. Beeching who redrew the railway map of Great Britain in the 1950s, it is now a delightful cycle / pedestrian route instead which our leader for the day Graham incorporated into this ride, commencing in Old Harlow where Graham used to work.
Unfortunately for Graham, who decided to cycle from Ickleton to Old Harlow down his former cycle commuting route, he picked up a couple of punctures probably from the hawthorn needles which cover the lanes at this time of year. It was a bitterly cold and foggy morning and having struggled to replace the first tube his hands were somewhat numb by the time the second happened and so with time pressing he put out a MAYDAY call which Brian picked up and diverted towards Stocking Pelham where Graham was stranded. Meanwhile, several of the others on the ride had gathered at The Queen’s Head or nearby due to the road outside being dug up, and headed to a cosy caff in the back room of the local shop to keep warm with mugs of coffee.
Eventually, Brian and Graham arrived but there was still the second puncture to mend.
And so, 45 mins later than planned Graham led Andrew, Brian, Ken, Rod, Roger, Geoff, Howard and Martin eastwards and downwind along very quiet lanes, several of them National Cycle Routes, towards our coffee stop at the Meadow Hill café in Dunmow, where the fruit cake, buns and scones were declared to be excellent.
Fruit cakes in Dunmow
Fruit cakes in Dunmow
After coffee it was time to head back west and having crossed the busy A120 via a bridge we were soon cycling along the very straight Flitch Way with just the odd barrier to squeeze through here and there, and little or no mud – definitely a ride which Graham could have declared ‘guaranteed mud free or your money back’ but after last week’s experience decided it might be wiser not to. Eventually we came to a halt, appropriately enough, at Stane Street Halt, where trains had to be flagged down if a passenger wanted to get on. And for those wishing to get off, passengers had to ask the guard who then had to ask the driver if he would be ever so kind as to halt at Stane Street. Guards had a useful job to do in those days!
We exited the Flitch Way at this point and then made our way around Hatfield Forest to Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath, all looking glorious in the winter sunshine.
The wind appeared to increase a bit on the final leg and so we were ready to sample some fine ales and enjoy a hearty lunch when we arrived back at The Queen’s Head.
This is where we went, the Flitch Way being the easy bit to spot:
Thanks, Graham, for arranging a fantastic ride and for introducing us to your old stamping ground in Old Harlow. We’re glad you accepted a lift back to Ickleton with Ken. Two punctures is quite enough in one day.
Thanks also to Andrew for organising us all and we hope his back is no longer broke.