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Clocks

As we cycle about our local area we quite often stop to admire lovely churches, and occasionally take a look inside, but how often do we take notice of their clocks? Well, a recent notification to The Ickleton Society from The Hundred Parishes Society, which covers much the same area that we cycle around of North West Essex, North East Hertfordshire and South Cambridgeshire, sheds an interesting light on the church clocks that we pass by so frequently.

This is what they have to say:

‘Within each of our hundred or so administrative parishes, the parish church is nearly always the most significant heritage feature. The majority of our Grade I-listed buildings are churches and each of them has fascinating architecture, memorials and memories. Today, I would like to focus on one particular aspect, the church clock.

Before the middle of the twentieth century most people did not have watches; they relied on public clocks which could be seen at railway stations, post offices and other public buildings – and on church towers. This reminds me of the lines written in 1912 by the homesick poet, Rupert Brooke:

“Stands the church clock at ten to three

And is there honey still for tea?”

I have to report that only half of the parish churches in The Hundred Parishes have a clock. All listed buildings have a formal description, but the details for a listed church rarely mention the clock, albeit that it is often a distinctive element of the church’s appearance.

Most clocks are mounted on the church tower. Many churches have just one clock, some two or three. I have found only three churches with four clocks, one on each side of the tower: Newport, Radwinter and Steeple Bumpstead.

The majority of clocks are round, but a few are lozenge or rhombus shaped, like Felsted and Great Waltham. Most clocks have a solid face although a few, like those at Steeple Bumpstead, consist of metal framework and numerals through which the brick or flint wall can be seen.

Solid faces are usually either blue or black. Numerals and the hour and minute hands are almost always golden. The hands generally point to Roman numerals: I, II, III, IV, etc – although a good number have IIII instead of the usual IV. Widford breaks the mould with Arabic numerals: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Great Canfield has just a single hand, pointing to the hour.

Some clocks are inscribed with a date and occasionally a royal cipher, for example Great Waltham celebrates Queen Victoria.

Hatfield Broad Oak appears to display the oldest date locally, 1797, although the clock looks in pristine condition following recent conservation. Hinxton possibly has our oldest clock, believed to date from 1700 AD, albeit extensively renovated in 1809 when a new face was fitted.

In Furneux Pelham, St Mary’s clock is topped by Old Father Time and the words “Time Flies, Mind Your Business”. One wonders what prompted those words to be included.

The bell tower at Sheering has two clock faces which were installed in the 1940s to remember those who served in the War. The north-facing one tells us to “Work and Pray” whilst the west-facing proclaims “Today Is Yours”.

The church at High Wych was built in 1861 to the design of local architect George Edward Pritchett. Its clock is almost as wide as the thin flintstone tower on which it is mounted.

Artist Eric Ravilious lived in Great Bardfield and his wood engraving of the church of St Mary the Virgin clearly shows the enormous clock that was added to commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1912. One assumes the residents of Great Bardfield are never late for work or church. The engraving has been adopted as the logo of The Hundred Parishes.

I hope this brief insight will encourage you to take more notice of our humble church clocks. As with all things in the Hundred Parishes, we can rejoice in the variety. I attach a page of images of the clocks mentioned above. You may see some reproduced in your parish magazine over the next two month or two.’

We are probably most familiar with the clock on St. Mary’s Church in Furneux Pelham with its inscription of ‘Time Flies: Mind Your Business’ but have we ever noticed Old Father Time above it? And next time we’re passing through Steeple Bumpstead why don’t we stop to take a look at all four clocks on the church tower, or the single hand on the clock of the church in Great Canfield? It’s good to learn also that the clock on Hinxton church is getting on for 325 years old.

The Hundred Parishes Society has a lot of additional interesting information about our lovely local area here: http://www.hundredparishes.org.uk/introduction

Tick tock!

Martin

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31 October. Halloween and the last of the summer rides. 20 miles.

Alan was called all sorts of names for having planned this Halloween ride but not taken part on account of having a cold. But there was no pity for him as seven spooky Windmillers tackled the Bastardos he made us climb, cursing and swearing like evil monsters as we rode along.

Starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall at 2.30pm, Rod set off like a rocket, Maurice-style, followed at a distance by Simon, Sandra, Iain, Andrew, Nick and Martin. But we soon ground to a halt, not once, not twice but three times before exiting Chrishall in the direction of Chrishall Grange, to sort out Simon’s scraping rear mudguard and Rod’s computer (at least, that’s what it might have been). This is Alan’s route:

Eventually we got it together and whizzed downhill towards Chrishall Grange before turning right and heading towards the first Bastardo – the nasty, bumpy, steep hill from Ickleton Old Grange up to the better financed Essex border where the smooth tarmac starts. On the way there were cars and vans trying to overtake us and others waiting patiently at the top of the hill for the puffers amongst us to reach the summit. What was going on with the A505 we wondered?

Thereafter, another stop was made to adjust Simon’s scraping mudguard; this time Andrew’s brute force and ignorance seemed to do the trick and it was all peace and quiet from then on. Well done, Dawg!

Stopping for tea and crumpets at Simon’s house was hinted at as we passed through Littlebury Green but none were available and, anyway, the light was already fading. So it was down the long hill, reaching over 30mph, and then up the second Bastardo of the ride towards Duddenhoe End.

In Arkesden a stop was made to admire the Halloween decorated house (shown above) opposite The Axe and Compasses, where rebuilding work is making progress. The owner showed us his evil talking spider and then rushed back to his house on seeing Rod coming towards him with a menacing look on his face.

It was quite a relief to turn right in Clavering and sail back with the wind behind, Nick peeling off back to Meesden at one stage. Then Andrew peeled off in Langley Upper Green to talk to his garage man, leaving Rod, Sandra, Iain and Martin to have a chat around the table in The Red Cow and to toast absent friends, this being the first ride since we had learnt of the passing of our great friend Lawrence Wragg. RIP Lawrence; we’ll miss you,

The last time we saw Lawrence on his bike – a short ride alongside a French canal on Monday 27 June 2022. Thereafter he became known as Goldilocks for sleeping in a bed in the wrong B&B, without checking in or checking out.

And on that sad note, this draws to an end a summer of wonderful hot Monday rides. But the good news is that future rides will start at the earlier time of 11.00am and, who knows, could involve a light lunch somewhere each week. More anon from our Monday organiser, Alan, who we should thank for organising this ride. It wasn’t that bad, really!

Martin

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27 October. A ride of contrasts. 32 miles.

Red sky in the morning? Shepherd’s warning! This is how the saying goes and how right it turned out to be on this mild autumnal but mixed weather day. Graham had set out early from Ickleton, as usual, to cycle to the start of this ride in Brick End near Stansted Airport which he had very kindly organised, capturing the magnificent red sky en route.

The Prince of Wales was to be our base for the day and what a fine pub it turned out to be – a huge car park and the prospect of some fine beer and grub at lunchtime, pre-tested by Graham he assured us. But having placed our lunch orders, the red sky delivered its warning and it was soon pelting it down with rain. Undeterred, some donned wet weather gear and some decided to take a shower whilst Ken, who arrived later than most, decided sensibly to sit in the comfort of his car and catch us up at coffee time. Contrast no.1.

GPX files are created by many apps these days and, in theory, should work anywhere. The file for this route, however, in contrast to most files loaded on to the Windmill WhatsApp group, refused to behave itself and seemed to defeat even the most IT-literate Windmillers. However, eventually after much experimentation and tweaking a sufficient number made it on to the devices of our 3 leaders for the day, Graham, Brian and Tom. Contrast no. 2.

So this was the devious route Graham had planned for us. Was it the figure of 8 and the mix of clockwise and anti-clockwise circuits that confused the GPX gremlins? Perhaps we’ll never know. ‘You can’t beat paper’, Maurice would say, and he might have a point.

Graham led the way in the rain accompanied in Group A by Rod, Jenni, Sandra, Deborah and Roger. They were soon overtaken by Group B, due to a minor technical issue of some sort, comprising Tom, Charles, Iain, Andrew, Keith and Martin who were in turn overtaken by both Group A and Group C’s trio of Brian, Simon and Victor, partly because Group B took a wrong turning (blame the rain and screens being difficult to see) and partly because poor Charles got a puncture in his front tyre – the first he has had for ages, possibly ever?

Having a puncture in a narrow muddy lane whilst it’s raining with lots of cars squeezing past is not exactly fun but the source of the puncture was soon discovered – a whopping great thorn, so easily picked up from the hedge cuttings currently in our lanes. Everything went well with the installation of a new tube until it failed to inflate, so it was back to square one. A dodgy valve it seemed was the cause. Finally, after much squirting of ice cold gas into a second tube, Group 2 set off again in pursuit of the others.

After a succession of tiny lanes we then found ourselves cruising through Great Dunmow from North – South before crossing the A120 and once again taking to quiet lanes.

Group B take a breather as the weather improves, near Buttocks End (Puttocks End!! Ed.)
Just wondering if Charles is planning one of these in his garden at Chrishall?

By the time Group B entered glorious Hatfield Forest, the sun was out big time but Group A had already left. Cycling through this National Trust property was a dream, with a café positioned perfectly in the middle by a large lake, which served excellent coffee and a good choice of cakes. Ken arrived at this point and tagged along with Group B.

Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve is the best surviving example in Britain of an almost complete Royal Hunting Forest. It has seen many owners, from Kings to commoners. No other Forest on earth evokes the atmosphere of a medieval hunting Forest so completely.
Hatfield Forest is a managed landscape, which has been created by centuries of human intervention. The traditional woodland management techniques of coppicing, pollarding and grazing are continued today.  It is home to over 3,500 species of wildlife, some of which are rare and threatened. The ancient trees, some over 1000 years old, provide the perfect habitat for some of the Forest’s rarest insects, lichens and fungi. It’s the perfect place to cycle off road on its many trails.

Having gone clockwise so far most of the time it was now an anti-clockwise circuit, exiting Hatfield Forest after a long grassy trail, a bit soggy and uphill in places which was easy for those with e-bikes but quite tough going for those without. The scenery was fabulous.

Simon stops for a natter with some Red Poll heifers.

The route back once we hit the road again was a mix of quiet lanes and quite busy stretches as we crossed the M11 a couple of times. This led to Group B experiencing some significant road rage, mainly from angry lady drivers, three of whom hurled abuse at us whilst cycling in single file on wide roads. Perhaps they thought it was just a bit of fun on their part. In contrast, there were no other reports of such rage from either Group A or C. Contrast no. 4.

And the mix of quiet lanes, forest trails and some busy stretches? That makes Contrast no. 5.

Despite Group B’s late arrival back at The Prince of Wales, the timing was perfect as lunch had been ordered for 1.15pm and it was soon on the table, washed down with a nice pint of Ridley’s and other ales.

Many thanks to Graham for inventing and organising a terrific ride and for giving us such an interesting day of contrasts. And thanks also to Graham, Charles and Brian for some of the photos.

Martin

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13 October. Victorious West Wratting circuit via HM Highpoint Prison. 31 miles.

Victor conjured up an ingenious ride from The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting which took in some lovely new lanes around Suffolk to Highpoint Prison near Stradishall where our closest contact with the inmates was having a coffee in Café 33 outside the high security fencing.

A good turnout of 15 Windmillers meant that three groups set off after first enjoying a fine cup of coffee and having placed their lunch time orders for food and drinks.

Victor led the way with his Goup A comprising Sandra, Alan, Charles, Jeremy and Deborah, followed a few minutes later by Andrew, Brian, Howard, Rod and Ric in Group B. Bringing up the rear in Group C were Geoff, Graham, Simon and Martin.

Although a bit chilly to start with, those without shorts soon regretted not wearing them as the temperature warmed up, so much so that most were sweating by the time they got back. It’s just that time of year but what a splendid autumnal day it turned out to be.

Not long after starting Group C came across Group B mending a puncture in Brian’s front wheel, expressed their sympathies and then swiftly moved on as everthing seemed to be under control. Brian must surely be in the running for the 2022 puncture prize? Has he converted to Schwalbe Marathons yet we wondered?

Brian in cheerful mood whilst others watch Howard doing all the work. Meanwhile, Simon seems to be inspecting the hedgerow……….

HM Highpoint Prison, the former home of Lester Piggott for a while then came into view, surrounded by very high fencing as you might expect. Just before reaching it we did wonder if the mad driver of a powerful old V8 Jag might be breaking out, or helping others to do so.

The main entrance to Highpoint Prison, a Category 3 prison these days, meaning it’s mainly for murderers and lifers. The site of the prison opened in 1938 as an RAF base. (My father was based there during the war. Ed.) On its closure in 1970, the RAF base was briefly converted into a transit camp for Ugandan refugees. In 1977, Highpoint Prison was opened, initially providing cells for male prisoners only, having been built by the prisoners themselves. Using prison labour instead of outside contractors saved £2 million on the overall cost of construction. That would be a good way of using today’s prisoners, surely? In February 2003 it emerged that two women drug therapy workers were ordered out of the prison after they were confronted with allegations that they had had inappropriate relationships with two male prisoners. The workers employer, Addaction (ho ho), subsequently lost its contract for therapy at the prison. Surprise surprise.

Padlocking our bikes securely outside Café 33, just in case, we all sat down outside to admire the view. Unless breakfast or a hearty meal was required it was best to stick to coffee as the selection of cakes was not quite up to the usual standard, but friendly and quick service all the same.

The return leg produced a fine splash of Suffolk colour which will probably only improve further in the weeks to come:

Then it was time for Simon’s chain to misbehave again, having been on its best behaviour so far on the ride:

Simon’s backside is becoming a familiar sight on recent rides as he once again puts his chain back on. Geoff provides protection.

The lanes became more familiar as we passed through Hundon, Great Wratting and Withersfield, eventually arriving back at The Chestnut Tree for yet another excellent lunch and fine ales.

Thanks go to Victor for organising a wonderful ride, and to Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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3 October. Welcome to Iain and his pet monster. 22 miles.

We gave a warm welcome to new member Iain Taylor on his first ride with the Windmill Club, astride the largest e-bike we have ever set eyes upon. Weighing in at 26kg and brimming with gadgets and carriers for serious camping expeditions in Scotland and elsewhere, this was a bike which would make mincemeat of our local lanes.

Welcoming him at The Red Cow was Maurice, organiser Alan, Rod, Simon, Nick, Charles and Martin. Possibly for the first time in Windmill Club history e-bikes out-numbered normal bikes. No doubt we’ll soon see Maurice back on his e-bike once his hip operation is over, although he talks of a new knee too………. What a brilliant invention the e-bike is, facilitating the continued enjoyment of our lovely countryside and the company of good friends.

This is where we went, anticlockwise:

The first test for Iain’s bike was the gravel byway between Building End and Langley Lower Green but he stormed up that, passing the Thames / Wash water course junction on the way, except there was no water to be seen. Roll on some more wet weather, but not on Mondays or Thursday please God. (He normally obliges unless members have been sinning.)

In Clavering we stopped briefly to allow Simon to put his chain back on again – a frequent occurence it seems since his prang at Cardington which probably distorted his gear mechanism, but he’s getting this down to a fine art with a little bit of help from his friends……..

Many hands make light work of putting a chain back on
Simon gives Charles’s rear camera the five fingers

Soon we were on our way again, this time direct to Manuden which made a change and luckily without too much traffic. Then it was back via Rickling Green, Arkesden and Duddenhoe End to complete a very enjoyable evening ride, with Nick peeling off in Rickling to cycle back home to Meesden.

Stopping for a breather between Manuden and Rickling Green

Back at The Red Cow, a warm welcome was received and some fine ale sampled before going our separate ways. Just as Alan had advised, the sun would be setting earlier and so this would be the last time for a while that we would be starting at 4.30 on a Monday. There was talk of bringing forward into November the popular pre-Christmas lunch time rides followed by a light lunch at a suitable hostelry.

Sunset over Chrishall
Thanks go to Alan for organising a great ride and also to Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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29 September. Crash landing at Cardington. 30 miles.

It’s been nearly five years since the last crash landing at Cardington airfield near Bedford, but Simon achieved another whilst taking a good look at the huge hangars as we cycled past and veering into the grass verge at the same time, dismounting in style but, thankfully, none the worse for wear other than his chain coming off. To be fair it was all the fault of Martin and Brian who were ahead and who slowed down to also admire the view, and one wheel just happened to clip another……….

The previous crash was far more serious. After earlier failures and a crash landing in August 2016, Airlander 10, an airship as long as a football pitch, got loose on its moorings in November 2017 and deflated spectacularly. Sadly, that was the the end of the £100m project.

This was the only ‘event’ on an otherwise fabulous ride organised by Brian, a 30 mile circuit of Bedfordshire from The Cock in Broom, just off the A1 near Biggleswade. It was good to be back there knowing that there were some good beers to sample at lunchtime.

With 13 participants in all, Brian led the way with Rod, Howard, Charles, Simon and Martin in Group 1 followed a few minutes later by Jeremy, Keith, Ken, Chris, Alan, Roger and Deborah in Group 2. After four miles the plan was to cycle through Old Warden Aerodrome, home of the Shuttleworth Collection, but it seems an air show was planned over the weekend and we were not allowed through unless we paid £15 each. So a U-turn was necessary, back through the delightful grounds of Shuttleworth Estate which enabled both groups to meet up for a photo in front of Shuttleworth House.

Shuttleworth House, a fine Victorian house with its magnificent tower and clock overlooking the extensive parkland, and equally magnificent Windmillers in front.
Photographer Martin having a quick kip
Wake up, Martin!

So now we were off in earnest to explore Bedfordshire’s varied mix of pretty villages, not-so pretty villages, fine architecture and churches, disused railway lines and gravel pits, quiet bike paths alongside the Great Ouse, large fields of potatoes and even a hill up to a greensand ridge. This is where we went, anticlockwise from Broom:

The paths around the Great Ouse were well surfaced, nicely laid out and popular with walkers as well as cyclists, ending up in the pretty village of Willington with its National Trust Dovecote and splendid church of St Lawrence.

The Dovecote in Willington, with Simon doing some exploring
Group 1 selfie
St. Lawrence, Willington, where we thought of our friend Lawrence.
Charles doing the Catwalk, clearly keen to win the sartorial prize again at the Christmas lunch

It was soon time for coffee at The Barn in Cardington, a good find which served excellent coffee and cakes.

It was soon after leaving The Barn that Simon had his prang but he was soon back in action again once his chain was back on and no blood could be seen:

Howard and Rod assist Simon whilst Martin and Brian, the culprits, look on shamefacedly. Sorry, Simon – we could do with brake lights.

Then we saw a side of Bedfordshire, or any county for that matter, which was simply shocking – a huge pile of refrigerators and freezers just dumped on the side of the road complete with rotting bags of food. What a contrast with other countries such as France when after a huge mountain bike event recently not a single piece of litter could be seen. We need a Government that can tackle this issue (and others of course) urgently.

A sad sight, but so common these days.

Brian, being Irish, threatened to take us to Ireland once again on this ride and indeed he did but only to a tiny Bedfordshire village which bears its name, without a Blarney Stone or Shamrock in sight yet alone any Guiness on offer. They really should cash in on this opportunity for those whose satnavs take them there by mistake:

Back at The Cock we received a warm welcome and were seated in our own room which hadn’t changed for centuries by the look of it. The excellent beer was kept at cellar temperature down some steps and the food was good too. What more could Windmillers wish for?

Thanks to Brian for organising the ride and to the many photographs provided by him, Simon, Charles and Deborah. Our thoughts are also with Maurice as he prepares for another hip operation.

Martin

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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