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1 September. Bellissimo ride in deepest Essex. 32 miles

After an inaugural ride from The Red Lion in Great Sampford a few weeks back, Windmillers demanded a repeat ride in order to once again enjoy the wonderful Italian food on offer at this otherwise traditional English pub. A perfect combination!

Eighteen Windmillers were due to take part but in the event we had sixteen comprising Andrew, Geoff, Sandra, Brian, Charles, Howard, Chris, Jenni, Graham, Rod, Hazel, Jeremy, Deborah, Ken, Ric and Martin, all dead set on working up an appetite for dishes ranging from Tagliatelle with Fresh Lobster to Pollo Con Funghi. The Spaghetti with Mixed Seafood proved to be the most popular choice.

So, with lunch all sorted, the first group of eight led by Geoff set off at 9.30 towards Castle Hedingham using the reverse of the route used previously but it wasn’t long before the second group overtook them whilst Deborah’s saddle was being adjusted by Graham. And it more or less stayed that way until a stop was made by everyone in Great Yeldham to admire the remains of an ancient oak tree (as above) held together with metal straps and concrete – dead as a dodo it seems but a nice reminder all the same of what was clearly a massive tree, assisted perhaps by being next to a ford on the Cambridge – Colchester road. Here is the plaque which gives the full history:

Instead of using the same farm shop café as last time (but well worth another visit there) the route took us via another new coffee venue, this time the Old Moot Tearoom and Bistro in Castle Hedingham who looked after us very well, even though cramming sixteen into the garden didn’t leave much room for other guests. A large interior suggested it could be an ideal place to warm up on a cold winter’s day…. It was great to hear of Sandra’s early experiences of driving HGVs around London and the Midlands, and being told not to worry about warning lights on the dashboard.

After coffee, the lovely church of St. Nicholas was seen hiding in the corner of a quiet lane:

The magnificent Grade 1 listed church of St Nicholas in Castle Hedingham. Intriguingly, some of the materials used are older than the church itself, which dates back to Norman times. It seems that when parts of the nearby older castle were demolished the bricks came in handy for building the church. The eastern elevation has one of only five Norman wheel windows thought to still exist in England, with splendid stained glass. Deborah suggested a return visit and a tour would be in order.
Guess who took this photo? Brian, of course, lying prostrated on the road in his usual style. Luckily it was dry. Thanks, Brian!

Setting off on the return leg took us on a different, longer route than used before which took us though some lovely quiet lanes with steep hills in places, winding bends and what could easily be a deep ford in winter months. Emerging once again in Great Bardfield but then taking another different route to the road leading back to Great Sampford, we eventually arrived back at The Red Lion bang on time for lunch at 1.10pm to find Maurice waiting for us.

Tucking into bellissimo food back at The Red Lion, Charles being the most colourful character amongst us.

This is where we went:

Can’t wait for the next visit!

Martin

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1 August. Chrishall to Furneux Pelham and back. 23 miles.

Maurice was due to take part in this ride but, sadly, his right hip and left knee were both playing up again and so he came to collect our fivers and wave us on our way around the lanes. We wish him well as he discusses his future options with his specialist but, judging by past experience, it won’t be long before he’s out on his bike again should replacements be necessary.

Andrew led the way from The Red Cow accompanied by Charles, Rod, Sandra, Alan and Martin. Nick was due to take part but had also been suffering from knee issues and so opted for a shorter ride, seen riding in the opposite direction near Meesden.

This is where we went, anticlockwise:

England in August is a great place to be, inland, and this ride proved the point – blissfully quiet lanes, golden colours (amplified by the drought) and strong smells of fresh harvesting. What could be better?

Riding at a leisurely pace provided time to stop and admire sights often passed at speed:

Nick giving his knee some light exercise near Meesden

Having planned a longer than usual ride for a Monday, thirsts were beginning to make themselves known just before passing The Bull at Langley Lower Green (funny, that) and so there was nothing for it but to do some quenching at this lovely pub, with a round of drinks generously bought by Andrew. Cheers Dawg! Good to have you out with us again after a period of absence for various reasons including the ladder incident.

Andrew, Sandra, Alan, Charles and Rod busy quenching thir thirsts on a hot summer’s evening outside The Bull

Alan and Charles peeled off at Chrishall which left Andrew, Sandra, Rod and Martin to continue soaking up the evening sun at The Red Cow. True to form, Andrew got chatting to another couple who lived in Thriplow, one of whom was a cyclist, and discovered they knew many people in common. What a schmoozer he is!

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organing the ride and Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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28 July. Farewell, Brian, Joyce and Amy. Hello Rwanda. 31 miles.

Sadly, we had to say farewell today to Brian, Joyce and Amy of The Plough in Rede, which has become one of our favourite pubs. After 40 years of running the pub, seven days a week with hardly a break, retirement has loomed for Brian and Joyce and they are off soon to start a new life whilst they are both fit and healthy. We wish them a long and happy retirement.

Nine Windmillers gathered at The Plough at 8.45am for an earlier than usual ride to Lavenham and back. Fortified by coffee the group comprising Maurice, Howard, Jeremy, Nigel, Alan, Rod, Simon, Jenni and Martin set off in a clockwise direction around familiar Suffolk lanes but it wasn’t long before Graham came steaming up behind, having started from Ickleton at 6.30am and breakfasted in Newmarket. He and Hazel are neck and neck in the running for the most pedalled miles in 2022.

This is the route we took:

The highlight of the ride was meeting a lady in Lavenham from Rwanda, Jo Nicholas, who is responsible for National Cycling Tourism Strategy in Rwanda. Jo took a great interest in The Windmill Club and will be posting a photo of Windmillers on a website to show how clubs operate in the UK. Fame and recognition at last! Jo said what a friendly country Rwanda was and cyclists are welcomed everywhere. There’s a big cycle event planned for 2025 and Windmillers would be welcome to attend. How about it? Return ticket guaranteed.

Jo Nicholas and friend from Rwanda

For more information about cycling in Rwanda go to http://www.theslowcyclist.co.uk

The National Trust coffee shop in Lavenham is always a delightful place to chill out whilst half way round a ride, and this day was no exception.

Colours to dye for in Lavenham – from the left, Martin, Jenni, Graham, Jeremy, Simon, Howard, Alan, Rod, Maurice, Nigel.

Back at The Plough after a very pleasant, event-free, ride it was with a mixture of pleasure and sorrow to sit down for the last time in the rear garden to enjoy some wonderful food and good beer. We shall miss Brian, Joyce and Amy.

Thanks go as always to Maurice and Andrew for organising us.

Martin

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25 July. The Duddenhoe Delta. 20 miles or thereabouts.

The Duddenhoe Delta was bound to catch us out sometime and this proved to be the day when it happened. The multitude of lanes leading out of the village, Mississippi-style, creates endless combinations of returning to The Red Cow in Chrishall, and we probably tried them all thanks to the rare event of rain after leaving Arkesden.

Maurice led the way followed by Simon, Alan, Ken and Martin on an AC circuit taking in Great Chishill, Nuthamstead, Meesden, Clavering, Arkesden and Duddenhoe End. This is where we went:

The first black cloud was seen whilst stopping at the junction shown above but it wasn’t until after we had passed through Arkesden that the first drops of rain were felt.

Work in progress rebuilding the Axe and Compasses in Arkesden

Stopping for a combination of donning wet weather gear, or having a pee, resulted in Simon doing neither and pedalling on ahead on his Howard-created speed machine. That was the last we saw of him until The Red Cow but he claimed not to have got wet at all. Which route through the Duddenhoe Delta he took we never discovered. Ken, Alan and Martin then followed, suitably protected from the rain which, as usual, stopped within a couple of minutes, leaving Maurice to catch up in sport mode on his e-bike. But which way through the delta? Up the High Street and down to Lower Pond Street was the decision made, not realising that Maurice had a different plan which was to head for Elmdon and down the byway through the woods to Chrishall, clocking up exactly 20 miles compared to the others who shaved off a mile.

So, eventually all met up once again for a very welcome pint back at The Red Cow.

Thanks, Maurice, for organising the ride, and Alan for the drinks.

Martin

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14 July. Culture vultures at Stapleford Granary. 28 miles.

Little were we aware of the musical talents of Windmillers until our new quartet of Rod, Simon, Andrew and Alan performed around the Steinway grand piano at Stapleford Granary, but only in air mode. The potential is clearly there for a full blown concert at a future date. Maybe they could start with this one:

Starting from The Pheasant in Great Chishill for a change was a bit like the old days when Simon and Ollie were in charge and it was interesting to see the changes carried out both internally and externally. Besides The Windmill Quartet, other participants were Andrew, Roger, Ric, Graham, Martin, Jeremy, Brian, Ken and Ann, the latter three starting at Stapleford. This is where we went, clockwise:

The first stop caused a traffic jam outside Lawrence’s house in Fowlmere when we knocked on his door for a chat. He was just about to leave with a friend to study an organ in Pampisford – the new quartet would benefit from becoming a quintet as Lawrence is the only Windmiller known to be really capable of tinkling the ivories.

Stopping for a chat with Lawrence. Is that a Catalina flying overhead?

Speeding along on flat roads with a tail wind on this fine day, it wasn’t long before Stapleford Granary came into view, complete with its spanking new coffee shop and covered awning, all ready for a Stapleford Village Day on the following Sunday (where a brilliant band, Mishra, hailing from Sheffield, played a fusion of folk and Indian music).

The Windmill Club hits social media big time.

After excellent coffee and cakes we had to drag ourselves away for the return leg via the off-road path to Babraham and then back via Sawston, the bike path to Whittlesford, Duxford, Ickleton (where Ric peeled off back to Harston), Elmdon and Heydon, making a very pleasant circuit of 28 miles in all.

Back at The Pheasant, the London Pride was as good as ever and lunch was taken outside on the new terrace behind the pub – all very tasteful and we wish the new management every success.

Thanks to Andrew for organising the ride and also Brian and Graham for the photos.

Martin

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11 July. The Three Musketeers ride again. 22 miles.

Freshly back from their 328 mile ride from Calais to Dieppe via WW1 and WW2 sites The Three Musketeers of the Windmill Club, namely Simon, Alan and Martin, met up again to discuss their conquests and tales of fine food and wines on this evening ride around the lanes. Accompanying them around France was Generale Lawrence de V Wragg in his wagon who very kindly carried their bags, dirty washing and acted as interpreter during the friendly encounters with local people.

Choosing the later time of 6.00pm to start the ride from The Red Cow in Chrishall, due to the high temperatures forecasted for earlier in the afternoon, resulted in just The Three Musketeers taking part. And at 28C it was still quite warm but on a bike it felt pleasantly cool as we cruised around the lanes taking in the sights and sounds of harvesting just getting underway, in contrast to Northern France where the harvest was in full swing two weeks previously.

This is where we went, clockwise:

The warm evening provided a good excuse to call in for refreshment at The Bull in Langley Lower Green before returning to Chrishall, bidding farewell to Alan as he climbed back to Great Chishill.

For those who might like to take a peek at the photos taken on the French trip, here is a link:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/HgX6tjQyxTRbTkFi9

One of the highlights was on Day 1 when we found time to visit the Blockhaus near St.Omer, a spectacular concrete bunker where Hitler planned to assemble V2 rockets and manufacture liquid oxygen for use against London, Antwerp and other targets. But it was never completed as the RAF and USAF bombed it to blazes in August 1943 – nearly 400 bombs in under an hour which created earthquake-size tremors. A tall-boy bomb administered a fatal blow and the damage can still be clearly seen. Take a trip there the next time you’re cruising down the Autoroute des Anglais from Calais to Reims – you won’t be disappointed. On Day 2 we visited La Coupole, a similar project which was dome shaped and designed to deflect bombing but that was only just completed as the war was coming to an end, with huge technical obstacles on the supersonic V2 rockets to overcome. The slower V1 rockets were very effective, carried a heavier bomb and could be launched from a ramp hidden in a forest, accelerating from 0-60mph in 2 seconds, twice as fast as a Tesla.

Day 3 involved visiting several WW1 sites including Thiepval, Lochnagar Crater and Andrew’s Great Uncle Louis’s grave (with a Private Woodhead spotted by Simon buried in the same row). Day 4 took as to the site of the battle of the St. Quentin canal, towards the end of the war, where we stood on the same spot that Napolean III used when he opened a 3.5 mile long tunnel to connect the Parisian and Northern French river basins. On Day 5 Lawrence joined us on his bike for a ride along a canal path before returning to collect his car whilst The Three Musketeers got a drenching en route to Pierrefonds with its massive chateau which must have influenced Walt Disney. Day 6 was a memorable ride into Normandy when Goldilocks Lawrence, as he has since become known, spent the afternoon sleeping in the wrong B&B, where there was no sign of the owner when he arrived or when he left to join us at the correct B&B. Day 7 was a pleasant ride through Normandy, picking up the smooth Paris – Dieppe Route Verte on a disused railway line on the last stretch and Day 8 was a short trip to Dieppe to catch the 11.00am ferry to Newhaven.

This is a draft of the route, subsequently amended from Day 5 onwards to take in Pierrefonds and Compiegne. The total ascent was approx. 4,000m not 2297ft!

All for one and one for all! That seems to be a motto of The Three Musketeers which is particularly apt for The Windmill Club.

Martin

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13 June. Testing, testing, testing… 21 miles.

Maurice, Charles (never underestimate him, as he warns on his shirt), Rod, Alan, Simon and Martin all set off from The Red Cow in Chrishall on this fine summer’s afternoon knowing that it would be a test for Maurice, whose left knee has been giving him issues recently, but not expecting Alan, Rod and Simon to be in testing mode too of a different sort.

In preparation for his forthcoming French ride with Simon, Lawrence and Martin, Alan came with his Giant touring bike to test it out on the hills. It has a monstrously low bottom gear which should see him climb all those French hills in the Somme and Normandy with ease, and with tyres which will soak up the bumps on river and canal bike paths.

Alan shows off his touring bike for use in France. Look at the size of that cassette! And there’s a small third ring on the front too.

So off we went on a circuit devised by Maurice taking in local lanes to Brent Pelham and back including, once again, our favourite bridleway from Builden End over the watershed to Lower Langley.

Rod looked at one stage as if he was planning a bank robbery with a fast escape on his e-bike but he was actually testing out an anti-fly swallowing device, namely a mask to keep ’em out.

Rod making a fast get away from robbing a bank? No, just an anti-fly swallowing device.

And then there was Simon, testing out a smart looking shirt and clearly determined to take on the French at their own game:

Simon modelling his smart outfit, ready to show the French that British cycling fashion is ahead of the game

The school run was over, the lanes were quiet and we enjoyed a very pleasant cruise. Thankfully, Maurice’s knee held out.

This is where we went:

Up down, up down, up down, up down, up down, up down for 21 miles – good practice for France

Thanks to Maurice for planning and organising the route. We hope his knee gets sorted soon. And thanks to Grandpa Charles for most of the photos.

Grandpa Martin

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30 May. Jubilee ride. 18 miles.

With Maurice sunning himself on a yacht in Majorca and Andrew still suffering from his recent fall, this left Jenni, Rod, Alan, Simon and Martin to kick off the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee week of celebrations. And where better to start than outside Charles’s house in Chrishall, whose display of bunting set the standard for all around – no larger Union Jack was seen during the 18 miles of this ride. Well done Charles, but sorry you were unable to join us.

Starting for a change from the Ickleton Lion, this is where we went:

The familiar byway from Builden End towards Langley Lower Green always seems to result in a discussion about the watershed at the top of the hill, which was news to Jenni. All very theoretical, however, on this warm dry day as there was no sign of any water in the ditch trying to decide whether to head for the Thames or the Wash. Let’s hope that one day the water will return.

In Langley Upper Green the group paused to take a look at the village church, St. John the Evangelist, which is easy to miss as it is up a no through road, The Causeway, just before the village green.

Langley Upper Green’s 12th century, Grade 2 listed parish church, “St John the Evangelist” is located at The Causeway, Langley Upper Green. Its western tower was added in the 14th century and chancel in the 16th century. It stands at around 450 feet above sea level. It was re-opened in 1885 after thorough restorations, which give the impression of more recent construction. There is a Commonwealth War Grave in the graveyard dedicated to a local Private who died in WW1.

Cycling on, it wasn’t long before we reached Strethall where Alan peeled off to head for home. Jenni was also running a bit late and so she headed off on returning to Ickleton which left Simon, Rod and Martin to sample some excellent ale in the Lion.

Martin

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26 May. Keynesian Cambridge ride. 35 miles.

Victor, Sandra, Roger, Alan, Ric, Rod, Geoff, Brian, Nigel, Martin, Rach, Hazel, Charles and Cheryl, all featured above, plus Jeremy who took the photo, set off in two groups from The Three Horseshoes in Stapleford on a ride organised by Brian in the absence of both Maurice (yachting around the Med) and Andrew (still recovering from his recent fall from a ladder). Deborah was hoping to take part but sadly had a family bereavement to deal with. It was great to welcome Rach as a new member and we hope that Hazel and Rach’s friend Cheryl will join us again on future rides.

Jeremy led the first group on this cultural outing but, mysteriously, Brian’s second group overtook the first group somewhere between Grantchester and Cambridge. But all was well as both groups met up at a key point on the route overlooking Kings College Chapel.

C’mon chaps, this way. Or is this a sign from Jeremy that Group A has got lost?

A famous scholar at Kings College was the economist John Maynard Keynes whose room was in Webb’s Court, close to the building to the right of the Chapel in the above photo. Keynes’s most famous work was The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money which created ‘Keynesian Economics’ and still widely taught today. But it was the American economist Milton Friedman who attacked the central Keynesian idea that consumption is the key to economic recovery as trying to “spend your way out of a recession.” Unlike Keynes, Friedman believed that government spending and racking up debt eventually leads to inflation—a rise in prices that lessens the value of money and wages—which can be disastrous unless accompanied by underlying economic growth. The stagflation of the 1970s was a case in point: it was paradoxically a period with high unemployment and low production, but also high inflation and high-interest rates. Are we heading in the same direction now? Perhaps this just proves that Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator and explorer, was also an economist because he set off not knowing where he was going and when he arrived he didn’t know where he was.

A painting of Keynes and his wife in 1935, but……………
…….. in 1909 Maynard Keynes took up his Fellowship at King’s College, moving into P4, a room in Webb’s Court. Duncan Grant, then his lover, decorated the room’s wooden panels with an exuberant painted scene, depicting dancers and Mediterranean grape-pickers.

Enough of all this academic claptrap I hear you say and get on with the ride!

So, having traversed Trumpington Meadows and the bike path from Grantchester, the said Windmillers then wiggled their way out of town through tiny lanes that only Brian and Jeremy know about. Hands up those who could repeat the route without looking at a map!

Hazel, Rach and Cheryl (on Lammas Land, Cambridge?)

Heading north-west and despite a stiff breeze it wasn’t long before we reached the new development of Northstowe, passing through Girton, Oakington and Longstanton on the way and submitting our backsides to some bumpy bike paths at times. But the smell of good coffee was in the air as we pulled into the Willingham Auction Rooms site where we were served briskly and efficiently by the staff.

Coffee at Willingham
Rod making sure a guided bus is not about to run him down
Jeremy’s group by the Cam on the return leg, with a few interested spectators behind

The return leg was more or less dead straight once we hit the busway towards Cambridge but the stiff South Westerly breeze and the exposed Fenland landscape made it tough going at times. Taking the new Chisholm Trail back into the centre of town was once again a pleasure – a delightful traffic free route for pedestrians and cyclists – after which we picked up the southern busway to Addenbrookes Hospital and the DNA path back to The Three Horseshoes.

Group B somehow managed to get to the bar first for much needed refreshment and to order their lunch and there was quite a wait before Group A arrived, when a minor prang between Rach and Charles took place at the entrance to the car park but no damage was done. The food was wonderful and all present thanked Brian for organising another of his delightful Cambridge outings.

This is where we went:

Thanks also to photographers Hazel, Charles, Jeremy and Brian.

Martin

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16 May. A tale of an involuntary dismount. 20 miles.

Not a lot has been recorded of a horrific fall encountered by Simon when he hit the opposite of a pothole, namely the mini-volcano above, on an otherwise smooth cycle path whilst returning recently from Reach Fair. He flew into the air, just like a plane on the nearby runway of Cambridge airport, but crash landed with a crunch on his collar bone and elbow, both of which have troubled him since. The collar bone may well have cracked, according to the pain reports provided by Simon, and this is what the elbow looked like:

This is what happens when crash landing on a bike near Cambridge airport

It beggars belief how Cambridge Council can allow such a dangerous obstacle to remain on a cycle path and we hope it is repaired before further injuries are sustained by cyclists. In the meantime there are rumours that Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Run may well be acting on behalf of Simon for damage to vital parts of his body, and his phone which was wrecked.

The good news is that Simon didn’t stop cycling, despite the discomfort, and this ride seemed to indicate that a full recovery had been made through having a celebratory swing from the lychgate of All Saints Church in Sandon:

Simon’s method of checking if his collar bone has mended or not. A dangerous place to experiment given that coffins normally rest here during the initial part of a burial service.
Others wait patiently as Simon sets off to go swinging, at the early hour of ten to five

The moral of this tale? Watch out there’s a pothole / mini-volcano about (everywhere).

Besides Simon, setting off earlier from The Tally Ho! in Barkway were Maurice, Nick, Rod, Alan, Victor, Martin and a surprise visitor Tim Goode who rode with us a couple of times a few years ago. Tim happened to be passing The Tally Ho! on a flashy new e-bike whilst the Windmillers were sheltering from a short shower of rain, paid his fiver and joined in.

A shower of Windmillers?

Perfect weather soon unfolded once the shower had passed and so the 8 set off in one group – 4 e-bikers and 4 pedal pushers. This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/6ec3d5a75f0b279b3f02bb17aaa4072f

Stopping for a breather between Therfield and Sandon

Whizzing past John and Lyn Bagrie’s house, with a cheery shout of hello, it wasn’t long before we descended to Buntingford and then up to Wyddial, passing by Visions of Loveliness Lane (ask Andrew for the details). Nick peeled off back to Meesden and the remaining group headed back to The Tally Ho! via Nuthampsted to enjoy some much needed refreshment. And who should join us but John Bagrie who ticked us off for not stopping for a drink as we passed his house. Next time, John! Thanks for the offer.

Alan was celebrating his birthday but had to shoot off to an early dinner engagement but no doubt he’ll receive a reminder the next time we see him!

Thanks once again to Maurice for planning and organising the ride.

Martin

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12 May. Yellow ochre in Suffolk. 36 miles.

Cycling in Suffolk is always a treat – quiet lanes, beautiful countryside and pretty houses and cottages painted in hues of red, pink and white. But look closer and there’s a colour that seems to be all the rage at the moment – yellow ochre.

Setting off from The Plough at Rede after having ordered lunch over a cup of coffee, nine windmillers comprising Maurice, Howard, Roger, Simon, Graham, Alan, Rod, Nigel and Martin decided to cycle in one group to start with, but that only lasted until Foxearth when bits started falling off Martin’s bike.

Le grand depart from The Plough at Rede, on a fine Suffolk spring day

There’s so much to see in Suffolk that it’s difficult to keep one’s eye on the road, which is a bit dodgy these days as roads everywhere have more potholes than ever before and the Chancellor has nothing left in his kitty with which to mend them, partly due to the naughty MP for Newmarket spending millions on unused face masks and protective clothing supplied by his mates and which is now past its use-by date. (How can a face mask be past its use-by date? Ed.)

Maurice spotted a couple of hares having a bout of fisticuffs on the roof of a thatched cottage which prompted Graham and Roger to have a go at each other too, but in a more friendly fashion:

A substantial well proportioned property, probably once the property of a rich wool merchant

Foxearth came into view just as Martin thumped into a large unseen pothole which ejected his heavy water bottle out of its holder and onto the road where it was recovered by sweeper-up Alan and replaced with no damage done to bike or rider. Not long afterwards a smaller pothole then ejected Martin’s trusty old Garmin eTrex 30 which had given sterling service over the past 10 years but which ended up being tragically killed by two cars, both of whom ran over it. Once again, Alan came to the rescue but, sadly, the look on its face said it all:

Goodbye, Garmin. It’s been good knowing you.

Martin and sweeper-up Alan waiting to pick up the next bit to fall off Martin’s bike

The coffee stop was once again at Café Como in Brent Eleigh, south of Lavenham, where it was pleasant to sit outside in their nice garden and soak up the sun.

Avoiding the main road into Lavenham which from previous experience we decided was too busy and dangerous, Maurice took us on an Easterly loop around and back into Lavenham via Preston which was pleasantly quiet. In Brent Eleigh, another yellow ochre building was spotted, this time a very run down 15th / 16th property which had seen better days and in need of more than a slight touch of tlc.

Anyone fancy a bit of DIY?

Lavenham is a difficult place to ride through without stopping and so Martin and Alan eased up and sauntered gently down the High Street.

Spirit levels clearly hadn’t been invented when these houses were built

Looking up Lavenham’s High Street, with more yellow ochre on the left

Suffolk is famed for the colour of its houses and cottages but, in fact, this is a fairly recent phenomenon. Plain lime wash was the usual colour but there are reports of red ochre being used on barns in the 17th century, purportedly made with blood or with sloes. So yellow ochre turns out not to be particularly traditional but perhaps just faddish today.

A full coverage of the history of Suffolk decoration can be found here: https://www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/planning/Conservation/upload/ConservaionLeafletPainting.pdf

Cycling out of Lavenham past the impressive church is always a sight to behold, this time flying the Ukrainian flag on the top of its tower:

The magnificent church of St Peter and St Paul’s in Lavenham, flying the Ukrainian flag

It was at this point that the third item fell off Martin’s bike, this time a pedal toe clip but Alan was not around to pick it up as hunger had got the better of him. It was not a problem to re-fix it temporarily with a spare bolt and he was soon on his way again, as a very distant tail ender.

Hartest hill was descended for a change and what should be seen at the bottom but another yellow ochre cottage, plus the house in the featured photo above overlooking Hartest village green.

Looking up Hartest hill, with more evidence of yellow ochre on the right

A headwind made progress slow towards Hawkedon where it proved impossible to not stop and take a pic of another magnificent church, St Mary, sitting in a field of buttercups – the only church in Suffolk to be surrounded by green on all four sides.

St Mary’s Church in Hawkeden surrounded by buttercups

Lunch was in full swing back at The Plough by the time your correspondent arrived, happy at having sauntered through the lanes.

Lunch in full swing at The Plough

Thanks to Maurice for planning and organising the route and to Graham for some of the photos. Graham not only rode to Rede (that’s a mouthful), leaving at 6.30am but declined a lift back from Martin, clocking up an impressive 100 miles for the day. Well done, Graham. This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/4c58fc2c3d9051714176784f37ab1ef2

Martin

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9 May. Highways and byways. 16 miles.

Maurice incorporated almost every local byway into this ride but whilst getting some gravel and pothole practice in before leaving the car park of The Red Cow he fell off his bike in a rather classy slow motion sort of way, gaining a few scratches in the process. Windmillers soon came to the rescue and hauled him and his bike up (getting out from underneath a heavy e-bike is no mean feat), and no other damage was done other than to his ego. All agreed that pushing bikes across loose gravel was probably the best bet.

Accompanied by Nick, Simon, Graham, Rod (just back from Oz), Alan and Martin, Maurice then led us on a tour of local highways and byways. This is where we went:

Byway no. 1 soon came into view – the lovely climb from Builden End over to Langley Lower Green, passing a Wash / Thames watershed ditch on the way. Not too bumpy either thanks to Essex CC’s upgrading of byways in recent years. Heading towards Brent Pelham before turning left to Roast Green and up past Poppy’s Barn brought us to Byway no. 2, a former Roman Road which joined Braughing with Great Chesterford. This is the only part which remains that can be walked / cycled, and in the tramlines of Roman wagons and chariots too. What heritage we have on our doorstep!

The featured photo above of modern-day Roman soldiers, a.k.a Windmillers, was taken at the exit of the byway near Cooper’s End.

Cycling through Duddenhoe End and up to Littlebury Green, where Simon is busy restoring a former quarry into a nature reserve with the help of other volunteers, we whizzed past his house and on towards Byway no. 3 – the pleasant route alongside the woods between Catmere End and Elmdon, pausing to admire the Jersey cattle at Freewood Farm.

Maurice and Simon receiving admiring looks from a Jersy heifer

‘Hey, you, get off my bike!’

Cycling past Simon O’s house in Elmdon, which seemed all locked up, made us think of what he has been going through recently and to hope he is doing ok. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we enjoyed a beer on a summer’s evening in his and Ollie’s back garden, where Simon proudly showed us his very own outdoor bar. I want one! I want it now!

Finally, Byway no. 4 was meant to take us directly from Elmdon to Chrishall, which it did for Rod who was out front with hearing aids turned off / not working, but the remaining group decided to take Graham’s detour to the north end of Chrishall through the infamous ‘big dipper’ and soft gravel – all because Martin reported a tree down on the intended route which Charles had promised to chain-saw away before heading off on his sailing trip. But he hadn’t – the tree was still there but Rod managed to get his e-bike around it somehow and got back to The Red Cow long before the others.

And so ended a very pleasant tour of local highways and byways, except perhaps for Nick who said he still suffers from a bashed up knee from many years ago and so prefers the highways to the byways.

It was great to have Rod back with us again after his long stay in Australia, where both he and his wife had Covid at one stage and had to lock themselves away. He seemed relieved to be back in a country with Covid on the wane, no floods, no nasty spiders and no crocodiles, and celebrated by buying a round of drinks. Cheers Rod!

But it was sad not to have Andrew with us and we hope he makes a steady recovery from his recent ladder accident.

Thanks, Maurice, for organising a great ride.

Martin

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5 May. Snakes and ladders before the ride. 31 miles.

At 00.39 on 5 May we received the sad news from Andrew that he was in A&E following a nasty fall from a ladder. Not only was he on the longest ladder, squares 28 – 84 on the above board, whilst attempting to mend his conservatory with a mastic gun, but he landed on the longest snake which took him quickly down from square 87 to 24, via a concrete post on the way. Ouch! That resulted in two fractured ribs, a damaged back and a month’s supply of codeine phosphate.

But, Andrew being Andrew, he was out of hospital after 24 hours having got to know almost everyone in A&E in the meantime and was lunching with Simon, Lawrence and Martin at The Red Cow on the 6th, albeit considerably the worse for wear, and by the 8th he was marshaling a sprint event at Debden with Howard and Martin with the assistance of his new friend, codeine phosphate. He was very lucky not to have been injured more seriously and we wish him well for a speedy recovery, not least because he has a 300 mile ride coming up in France in mid-June.

Andrew knocking back the codeine phosphate at Debden accompanied by red flag man Howard and bookkeeper Martin.

So this news created a sombre start to a ride from The Chestnut Tree at West Wratting, with much talk and personal experiences of falling off ladders and how to prevent such disasters. Ladder stays top and bottom and / or a ladder assistant seem to be the main recommendations, and wearing a cycle helmet might also help.

News of Andrew’s fall produced many more expressions of ‘Be careful’ than usual from concerned spouses which seemed a bit strange given that we weren’t going to be climbing ladders all day but just cruising around our quiet lanes on a perfect Spring day. And that’s just what happened as 13 Windmillers set off after having had coffee and placing their lunch orders, led by Maurice and followed in two groups by Geoff, Alan, Victor, Brian, Jeremy, Deborah, Graham, Simon, Roger, Ken, Howard and Martin.

A baker’s dozen of Windmillers getting ready for the off on a fine May day

The route was a familiar one – the reverse of one done recently in storm force winds, taking us this time anticlockwise via Horseheath, Castle Camps, Baythorne End, Kedington and Withersfield. The conditions were blissful – what a contrast with a few weeks ago. Here is the route:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/9b19113b27071c5c1a6896d860ab0c35

Coffee at Tarka’s Café in Baythorne End was as good and efficient as usual, but this time sitting outside in the sunshine whilst hearing an update from Andrew in A&E about his scary and painful experience – a blow by blow account indeed.

Brian and Graham give Michelle a cuddle at Tarka’s Café

Jeremy, Geoff, Roger and Ken replenished and raring to set off on the return leg

Back at The Chestnut Tree after an uneventful ride – just as well because Andrew’s event was enough for one day – we enjoyed the usual excellent fare washed down with fine ales and soft drinks.

Thanks to Maurice and absent Andrew for organising the ride and we look forward to the Deputy Dawg joining us again once he is fully recovered.

Martin

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21 April. 11th Birthday ride. 31 miles.

It is 11 years since The Windmill Club was established and we still have the dedicated support of founder Maurice, seen zooming onwards at a rate of knots in the photo above on this Birthday ride, and deputy-Dawg Andrew, who decided a rest was needed to smell the bluebells in woods near Nuthampstead. We are indeed very fortunate to have all the hard work taken away from us in terms of ride planning and organisation by those two stalwarts. Helmets off to both of them.

We were fortunate too in having perfect weather for this 11th Birthday ride. Seventeen Windmillers signed up for an outing around local lanes, ten starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall, where Andrew had done a special deal with Toby the landlord for lunch, and six from Ickleton which proved convenient for the gang from Shelford, Stapleford and Ickleton, generally known as the Ickleton mob. And the seventeenth, Deborah, joined for a late breakfast at Poppy’s Barn where we all stopped for coffee, at various times. More anon.

Those starting at The Red Cow were Maurice, Andrew, Geoff, Charles, Simon, Graham, Ric, Roger, Alan and Chris whilst those starting in Ickleton – Ken, Brian, Howard, Tom, Jeremy and Martin were put to work before setting off attempting to heave out the rest of Martin’s stubborn walnut tree stump, but to no avail despite Howard’s idea that a bit of leverage might help.

Howard, Tom, Martin, Ken and Jeremy couldn’t shift the tree stump despite a loud rendering of ‘Hooh! Aah! Hooh! Aah! That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9Ylio8H-VU (for those who want to sing along).

Having given up on the tree stump the Ickleton mob set off a bit earlier than expected and cruised up Coploe Hill with the wind behind to meet up with Ken who had made an earlier start. This meant that we were ahead of Maurice’s group and Andrew’s group and would be first in line for the coffee at Poppy’s Barn. Yippee! Little did we know what was going on behind us……… but Alan has very kindly supplied the details:

Group A or was it group B regrouped at the junction of Bastardo and the B1039. Just as we set off Maurice announced that he thought he had a puncture. How could this be the rest of the group were all thinking after all his bike was equipped with Schwalbe Marathon tyres which are claimed to be the most puncture resistant tyres on the market. 

Sure enough the front tyre was flat.

Never mind with Alan, Geoff, Maurice, Rod and Roger with our many years of experience we would soon have this sorted at a sprint.

Wheel removal

With the wheel and tube removed the next job was to get a new tube. Once the tyre had been checked for sharps, none were found but a cut was.  Maurice rummaged around in his saddle back (which we all know is a bit like Hermione’s bag in the Harry Potter film it contains everything you need, including a shot of port & brandy for medicinal purposes) and produced a tube of the correct size but also fitted with a Schrader valve. Unfortunately the hole in the wheel was for a Presto valve. No matter how hard we tried it was not going to fit. By this time group B or was it C arrived.

More experience arrives

More tubes where offered but they were either too big or too small.

Roger came to the rescue with some super patches. As it appeared all was under control some of the group resumed the ride leaving a few behind to carry on the repair.

The hole was soon identified, patched tyre and wheel fitted on we were on our way. The repair had taken over 15 minutes somewhat longer than the club record of just over 4 minutes.

The hill up to Arkesden was tackled but on the descent Maurice announced that the tyre had once more gone flat.

Puncture repair take 2

Examination of the tube showed that the super patches were not as super as they claimed to be.  Fortunately Charles had joined the group and as we would expect from ex-army personnel a tube of the correct size and valve was produced. It was fitted to the tyre and pumped and pumped but the tyre refused to inflate. Inspection showed the brand new tube had a faulty seal on the tyre. A second tube was produced fitted and pumped. This time it held its pressure and so we were soon on our way.

So the Schwalbe marathon was not fixed at a sprint but with a total time of over 35 minutes, it was a marathon repair.

The Ickleton mob got wind of this once Andrew’s Group C had arrived making us feel somewhat guilty that we hadn’t helped, but then too many cooks spoil the broth, don’t they? Eventually, and looking somewhat puncture-worn, Maurice’s group arrived and soon got stuck into excellent coffee and cakes at Poppy’s Barn.

The Ickleton mob looking deadly serious – planning thier next job?
Exhausted puncture repair team waiting for their coffee and cakes

Things improved after leaving Poppy’s Barn with no other incidents to report other than soaking in the smell of Spring all around and enjoying the sounds of nesting birds. Charles’s hi-tech camera snapped away happily every 3 seconds, just like a bird singing, until the battery ran out:

……….whilst Simon’s technique is reminiscent of the old days of 35mm film when each shot cost a few bob to produce and so each photo takes some time to create, but produces marvellous results:

Maurice’s route was a perfect combination of typical Monday rides to form a circuit of 31 miles taking in familiar villages such as Ickleton, Arkesden, Stickling Green, Langley Upper and Lower Greens, Brent Pelham, Anstey, Nuthampstead, Great Chishill and back to Chrishall. This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/211881c797da89ab45f3709d6d3add02

Entering Great Chishill, a once-in-a-lifetime event was taking place when a fork lift truck was seen carrying a recently cast bell towards the church entrance. But that was not all – the five original bells, four dating back to 1686 and the fifth made in 1841 – had all been renovated and delivered back the same morning, looking very smart on the path to the church door.

Note the mistake of the foundryman from Wightman Foundry who placed a G upside down on this bell

Back at The Red Cow it was good to be joined at lunch by Bridget, Ann and Hazel and we all tucked into fish and chips, chicken and ham pie, or a burger, all of which were pronounced excellent, and washed down with equally excellent ales, wines and soft drinks, all of which were kindly paid for by Tom who had just celebrated his 70th birthday. Cheers, Tom!

And so ended a marvellous birthday ride, but not without Maurice’s puncture incidents which must already place him in the running for the 2022 puncture prize at the Christmas lunch.

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their wonderful organization, to fellow blogger Alan for his report and to photographers Simon, Charles and Brian.

Martin

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11 April. Centurians on the Roman Road. 21 miles.

This was almost the reverse of last week’s ride when the tortoises decided to explore the Roman Road byway from Butts Green, near Poppy’s Barn, to Cooper’s End, primarily to get shelter from the wind. Maurice, being one of the hares on that ride, heard such good reports he decided to explore it for himself, this time as Centurian-in-Chief accompanied by his fellow Centurians Andrew, Alan, Charles, Victor, Graham and Martin.

Setting off from The Red Cow, it didn’t take long to reach Cooper’s End despite the long climb up Cogmore Hill to Duddenhoe End. The initial stretch of the Roman road is paved, not in cobblestones but in very smooth tarmac which Roman soldiers would have marvelled at. Quite how a dead-end country lane came to be given such treatment by Essex County Council is a mystery although a recently retired Tory MP, now a Baron in the House of Lords (who once repaid a £12,000 gardening bill he had claimed on Parliamentary expenses) just happens to live at Cooper’s End…………. (Enough of this tittle tattle. Ed.)

At Cosh Farm the smooth tarmac ends abruptly after which a decent surface of road planings continues, not in a dead straight line as shown on the OS map but instead wiggles its way over a ford and then down through the trees as far as Butts Green where it meets the Langley Upper Green – Clavering road. The course of the Roman road actually continues onwards towards Brent Pelham (but not on a public right of way) until it joins the lane we frequently cycle along between there and Meesden. Presumably it carried on towards Braughing and then joined Ermine Street which goes south to London and North to Godmanchester via Royston. Going north east from Cooper’s End would have taken it to Great Chesterford, a major Roman garrison town and where remains are still frequently found.

Windmill Centurians ready for battle

It was good to have Victor with us who was unfamiliar with the local lanes we use on Monday rides but soon appreciated why we like them so much. We are extraordinarily lucky in having such a peaceful and beautiful area to ride around.

It’s oil seed rape time, but no sign these days of Chinese or Japanese tourists who used to come in bus loads to see our yellow fields.

This time there was no road block between Violet’s Lane and Brent Pelham caused by sludge lorries queuing up to deposit their loads, as there was last time, and so we continued to cruise peacefully around until ascending the hills towards Great Chishill and thence to The Red Cow.

Maurice had arranged once again for chips to be available but with Alan having peeled off in Great Chishill and Graham and Andrew having to head for home, this left Maurice, Charles and Martin to scoff large helpings of chips and mayo, washed down with the usual excellent beers on offer.

And this is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/27fbebcaf035835908cb366c8d749be9

Thanks to our Centurian-in-Chief Maurice for planning the route and his deputy Andrew for organising us, plus Centurian Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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7 April. Westerly Windy Windmillers in West Wratting, or WWWWW for short. 28 miles.

48mph or 48kph? Who really cares whether they were imperial or metric gusts of wind forecasted for this ride? Both are Force 8 + on ye olde Beaufort scale and that’s just how it turned out to be for 14 hardy Windmillers as they set out from The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting on a three county circuit of lanes in Cambs, Suffolk and Essex.

Deep in conversations whilst assembling for coffee and lunch ordering at The Chestnut Tree. But what are Simon and Ric talking about?

Maurice led the first group with Ric, Charles, Nigel, Deborah, Alan, Victor and Jeremy in tow, followed shortly afterwards by Andrew, Howard, Brian, Simon, Graham and Martin. The outward leg via Great Wratting was a dream with only the occasional sideways gust reminding us of what we had in store on the return leg.

Having passed St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Kedington on many occasions, it was decided to stop on this ride and take a look inside what is commonly known as ‘The Westminster Abbey of Suffolk’, and we were not disappointed. The interior pays homage to the Barnardiston family, from the nearby hamlet of the same name, and is brimming with tombs of early family members, some of which are covered in graffiti dating back to the 1700s. (Some more recent graffiti includes the word Debbie but we didn’t see Deborah scratching away whilst we were there.)

The interior showing the elaborate roof structure and the Barnardiston family’s private pew, where they must have felt like caged animals at times.
Non-caged Windmillers admiring the wall paintings and roof.
A highlight was this 9th century Saxon Cross in fantastic condition on the windowsill above the alter, which once stood in the churchyard.

Moving on, it wasn’t long before Tarka’s Café came into view at Baythorne End – always a good place to stop for excellent coffee and oversized cakes.

As Group B was leaving the café who should be seen returning but poor Deborah whose Group A had shot off at speed and not waited for her at the first junction. She was warmly welcomed into the fold of Group B who wouldn’t dream of such behaviour.

The first section of the return leg was quite well sheltered by trees and hedges and so it was only on the exposed parts that we felt the full force of the 48mph / 48kph gusts, most probably the former judging by the speed of the cloud shadows whipping across the fields towards us.

The worst part by far was the stretch between West Wickham and the turning to West Wratting where it was tough going even pedalling downhill.

This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/087f8bf646fde57ff428fc1217236473

All agreed back at the pub that it had been the windiest ever Windmill Club ride. But where was Sandra, someone was heard to say? She would have loved living up to her name of Storm Sandra.

It was great to have Geoff join us for lunch, which was brilliant as always. The Chestnut Tree never lets us down.

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to Charles and Brian for some of the photos, more of which are on The Windmill Club site on Google. Thanks also to Jeremy for the WWWWW inspiration.

Martin

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4 April. Hares and tortoises. 20 Miles.

It didn’t matter whether you were a hare or a tortoise, there was a great selection of beers on tap at The Red Cow in Chrishall after the ride, and some great chips too, specially cooked for the six Windmillers on this ride around the lanes.

Maurice, Graham and Sandra (the hares), Andrew, Simon and Martin (the tortoises) all set off together at 4.00pm but the hares eventually charged ahead whilst the tortoises pootled along planning their forthcoming French ride, amongst other things, and how to avoid the strong wind on the return leg.

This was the planned route, taken by the hares:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/25e1cba6484da49cc78b8e384c3e3824

After a very pleasant anti-clockwise circuit via Great Chishill, Nuthampsted, Anstey, Brent Pelham and Starlings Green, the tortoises had other plans shortly after passing Poppy’s Barn when they decided to take the Roman Road byway to Coopers End, and to then rejoin the route at Duddenhoe End. Despite the recent rain this turned out to be a very pleasant route on a good surface of road planings but with a ford to cross at one point, so best done after a spell of dry weather.

Simon and Andrew admiring the primroses at Coopers End.

Back at The Red Cow, Graham peeled off, having been on the road for the best part of 4 hours, leaving the others to have a beer and tuck into the excellent chips.

Thanks, Maurice, for planning the ride and chips, and Andrew for getting us to the starting line. 4.00pm seems to be a popular time to start Monday rides and so we’re hoping for a good gathering on future Mondays now that the weather is improving. All we need now is less wind.

Martin

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24 March. Glorious spring non-Covid ride. 32 miles.

Essex put on its finest Spring clothes for 11 negative (so to speak) Windmillers who assembled at The Cock in Henham for a figure of 8 ride to Finchingfield and back. Covid was all around, with Simon unable to attend due to catching the dreaded lurgy, and Martin said a plague had descended on his house, thanks to snotty nosed grandchildren rushing about whilst currently residing in his house. He was positively negative but this didn’t stop Windmillers keeping a safe distance from him, understandably. And both Graham and Charles had reported large dollops of family / friends with Covid, which seems to indicate we’ll all follow in the pioneering footsteps of Brian and Roger sooner or later.

Having assembled to order lunch beforehand, Maurice led the way followed by Ric, Sandra, Nigel and Ken. Then a few minutes later, Andrew, Roger, Deborah, Howard, Jeremy and Martin set off at a more steady pace.

Determined to keep his distance from any would-be Covid carriers, or possibly wanting to compete with Charles for the 2022 sartorial sock award, Andrew donned some ferociously worded socks and produced a V sign to anyone who got close, particularly Martin.

No social distancing on the photographer’s part, nor by Jeremy.
Andrew’s Covid-precaution measure during coffee in Finchingfield

Maurice’s route took us through lovely quiet lanes where the early onset of Spring could be enjoyed – hedgerows bursting with growth, daffoldils everywhere, cherry blossom on show and even fields of oilseed rape starting to turn yellow. Maybe there’s a shock in store for all that foliage, not to mention the birds who seem hell bent on mating and building nests?

The obligatory stop to pay homage to Great Bardfield windmill
St Katherine’s Church in Little Bardfield, a jewel of a Grade 1 listed church tucked away down a lane and containing the newly-restored 1688 Renatus Harris organ, the most significant historic organ in Essex.
Cherry blossom in Great Bardfield

Andrew was socially distancing on the return leg, Martin was stopping to snap away and so various routes were taken on the way back. Andrew whizzed by the junction in Thaxted but realised his error and U-turned whilst Martin who followed on a few minutes later opted for a shorter route back to Henham and got there before the rest of the group, clocking up the shortest distance of the day of 29 miles. The longest ride of the day was achieved by Ric who cycled from Harston, clocking up around 70 miles in all. Well done Ric!

Tucking in at The Cock

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

Martin

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28 March. Axe and Compasses axed by fire. 20 miles.

News of the tragic fire which destroyed the Grade 2 listed Axe and Compasses pub in Arkesden began to circulate shortly after 11.45am on 27 March, just before 150 diners were due to celebrate Mother’s Day. Popular with Windmillers, both as a stopping point whilst on a ride and for meals with family and friends, the pub will be sorely missed by many people. The moussaka was legendary – how far do we have to go now to enjoy such good minced lamb, aubergines and tomatoes with a cheese sauce on top?

It was therefore appropriate for seven Windmillers to pay their respects, namely Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Simon, Charles, Graham and Martin, who started the ride at The Red Cow in Chrishall before passing through Arkesden.

Ten fire engines arrived from Saffron Walden, Newport and Stansted to tackle the blaze but were unable to save the building due to the rapid spread of the fire through a thatched roof. Only part of the building remained, on the right hand side, but this was severely damaged by water penetration. Our sympathies go to the Christou family who have run the pub for over 30 years, dishing up several tons of moussaka during that time.

Moving on through Clavering and Starlings Green it wasn’t long before we took a left down Violets Lane and through the remains of some thick mud before heading towards Brent Pelham, only to find our path blocked by a huge sludge lorry attempting to head towards us. Quite how he was planning to attempt the corner at Violets Lane, we didn’t stop to enquire but we managed to just squeeze past. All became clear when we then came across what must be a record jam of sludge lorries in Hertfordshire – not just one but seven in total!

Windmillers take the field edge by-pass to get round the sludge lorries. Luckily, not a car in sight.
Left or right of the lorry ahead? Decisions decisions.
Graham keeping his distance from a lorry load of sludge. William Gilder specialise in shifting nasty smelling stuff and were most probably connecting their lorries up to the pipe on the left to discharge bio-waste / slurry on to the adjacent field.

Writing about sludge brings back memories of an awful Limerick once heard about sewage:

There once was a man named McBride.
Who fell in the sewer and died.
The same day his brother
Fell in another,
And they were interred side by side.

(Love the last line!)

Back at The Red Cow, Andrew and Graham headed back home, Graham having been on the road since 2.00pm when he was spotted on Coploe Hill by Martin, who was tending his allotment. Graham was followed by Andrew, leaving the remaining five to have a drink and a laugh. And thanks to Charles for buying a round of drinks, and for some of the photos.

Thanks to Maurice as always for organising a pleasant route and Andrew for his organisation.

This is where we went:

Martin

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17 February. The lull between Dudley and Eunice. 26 – 31 miles.

Storms Dudley and Eunice had a truce on 17 February but Eunice was declared the victor after a ferocious attack on houses and trees the following day when record gusts of wind were recorded. Even so, the lull was still expected to produce winds of 38mph and so at the last minute the management decided to shorten the route. It was therefore most appropriate that we would be riding through:

The rivers were already full (that’s Barwick Ford in the featured photo above which some brave Windmillers often cycle through) and so there was potentially an interesting ride ahead, starting from The Golden Fleece in Braughing.

Fourteen Windmillers gathered together at 9.00am to place their orders for lunch before departing ahead of schedule, the last group leaving at 9.25am. Perhaps the thought of game stew and dumplings at lunch was already producing hunger pangs for some.

Maurice was the first to whizz off with his group A of 5 followed by Andrew’s group B of 4 and finally Brian’s group C of 5. The route was a clockwise circuit taking in Puckeridge, Barwick Ford, Ware, Hertford, Sacombe Park and back to Puckeridge, except for Martin and Graham who chose a longer route (or so they claimed) via Westmill, Buntingford and Hare Street to clock up 31 miles in all. (In fact, it was a major navigational error by Martin, having stopped to take the Nasty photo above, so he’s already in the running for the annual got lost award normally won by Simon).

Despite the change of plan, the lanes were pleasantly quiet and sheltered and so there really was a lull between storms Dudley and Eunice.

Hazel, Roger, Martin and Graham take the high road across Barwick Ford
Fanham’s Hall in Wareside brought back happy memories for Hazel who attended management training courses there whilst working for Sainsbury’s. It is an 18th-century Queen Anne House-style country house and is Grade II* listed, now operating as a hotel. The interior is decorated in the Arts and Crafts style with plasterwork by L A Turner and stained glass by Morris and Co. in the library. A former owner Lady Brocket had a keen interest in horticulture and influenced the employment of Japanese gardeners to create the Hall’s formal gardens. Her ornamental lakes and choice of trees (such as Japanese maples) can still be seen in the present-day formal grounds, as can the “Fuji-yama Mound” which was built with earth from the Hall’s lakes.[1]The garden is listed grade II on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The grounds are open to the public and groups of visitors welcomed, even sweaty Windmillers some time in the future. Could be a good base for a ride or coffee stop?

Stopping for coffee in Ware was very pleasant, as usual, most choosing to sit inside to warm up a bit. Andrew was left out in the cold, however, on account of his Covid avoidance measures prior to departing on a cruise around the Caribbean.

The return leg was initially Cycle Route no. 61 along the towpath of the River Lee towards Hertford which is always a delight, but quite busy with pedestrians so care was needed.

Navigating through the meadows after Hertford Lock took some doing for Group C, and maybe the others too, due to the bridge towards Bengeo Hall being closed but a quick U-turn soon had the group heading in the right direction. Once out of Hertford the traffic eased and we were alone in Sacombe Park before heading to Dane End and Great Munden, where a pal of Maurice owns the village church. Maurice’s pals seem to own large chunks of Hertfordshire.

The Nasty experience was fine for everyone except Martin and Graham who arrived for lunch to find Group A had already finished and Group B were half way through. However, there was still plenty of game stew and dumplings left which was voted extremely good by those who had it.

Martin and Graham arriving slightly late for lunch
Empty plates in evidence for Group A (Hazel and Roger from Group C waiting patiently for their lunch to arrive)
We even had our own Court Jester to entertain us.

Thanks to the management team of Maurice and Andrew for organising and amending the ride to 26 miles at short notice (but only Martin and Graham achieved the usual 30 miles or so, unintentionally.) Thanks also to photographers, Brian, Charles and Deborah.

Martin

PS. This is what Eunice did to Martin’s beloved walnut tree the following day. Deborah and Jenni stopped by to take a look.