It was good to be back at The Bull, Lower Langley, for a Monday ride even though a 3.00pm start meant that it was a bit gloomy towards the end. But opening time is an all important consideration and The Bull does not open until 5.00pm, and so it was lights blazing as Andrew, Rod, Charles, Nick and Martin cruised around the lanes.
Nick was the proud owner of a flashy new Cannondale e-bike which looked the part with its drop handlebars and which had a fine turn of speed. Charles, Andrew and Martin had trouble keeping up with him and Rod, and planned to secretly hitch tow ropes on them in future. This is where we went:
Heading firstly towards Little Chishill we took a right towards Builden End up a well surfaced track which Rod and Martin did in the opposite direction a few weeks back – a very useful short cut to / from Chrishall and beyond, and a popular place for Charles to walk his dogs. Thereafter it was up to Chrishall and through Elmdon towards Ickleton, turning right to Strethall Crossroads, until we spied a familiar figure jogging towards us at a steady pace – Simon Oughton – who was on a circuit from Elmdon via the woods between there and Catmere End. Stopping for a chat resulted in a very generous invitation from Simon for us to call in and have a beer any time we are passing. Thanks, Simon, I’m sure we’ll soon take you up on that!
Passing Simon T’s house in Littlebury Green we were soon descending at speed down to the Wendens Ambo road where we took a left and then a right up the timed course for cyclists towards Arkesden, which we achieved in around 8 minutes compared to the fastest time by a competitor recently of just 2 minutes. It was very noticeable how much water there was in the stream running alongside the road opposite the Axe and Compasses, which is usually dry.
By this time it wasn’t exactly dark but we were grateful to have good lights whilst mums were on their school runs whizzing around the lanes. Nick’s back light was particularly penetrating despite its size. Perfect timing saw us back at The Bull just as the door was opening, where the usual warm welcome was received and a good natter had with the regulars.
Due to some bloggers being on holiday or otherwise indisposed, it has not been possible to record all of our January rides in the usual visual and descriptive manner. However, Andrew has provided a list of those rides not already kindly blogged by Brian:
13 Jan Anstey 22 miles
20 Jan Thriplow 20 miles
27 Jan ride cancelled
9 Jan Therfield. Victors Birthday ride 31 miles
16 Jan Braughing to Ware 30 miles
February should see us back to our usual routine. In the meantime, our new book ‘The Windmill Club – our 2019 rides’ makes interesting bedtime reading and much amusement on these cold and dark winter days:
The thought of tucking into some delicious tapas has produced a number of rides from the Green Man in Thriplow, particularly on recent Mondays when the daylight diminishes rapidly after 3.00pm. So, once again, five Windmillers comprising Andrew, Ken, Simon, Graham and Martin gathered at noon at the Green Man for a ride around the lanes, with the Ickletonians having cycled there.
It was another glorious pre-Christmas day as the group set off on a ride devised by Martin to work up an appetite for Christmas turkey and all the trimmings.
The first stop was Lawrence’s house in Fowlmere as he had threatened to join us but shopping had got the better of him. So on we went via Chrishall Grange and up a short but infamous hill Bastardo which looks like a gentle incline from a distance but gets steadily steeper towards the top. Andrew had chosen to bring a mountain bike, thinking that Martin had included a muddy off road stretch, and the heavy old thing proved to be not so good at climbing hills (i.e. the bike, not Andrew!).
That was the hard part over. Thereafter it was on to Strethall Crossroads, left to Ickleton, across Ickleton recreation ground and on towards Hinxton Ford which was closed to traffic due to the high water level.
Then it was through Duxford, Whittlesford and back to Thriplow via Newton instead of using the muddy track between Whittlesford and Thriplow where Andrew would have been in his element.
An excellent tapas lunch followed after which we bid each other a Merry Christmas and set off to wrap up the presents.
This is where we went:
A very Merry Christmas to one and all and a happy and healthy 2020.
Was this a record we all wondered, just 8 weeks from having a new knee installed? And it wasn’t just a ride around the block but a full 19 miles that Maurice achieved on his e-bike around the lanes on this pleasant winter’s afternoon. Starting earlier than usual for a Monday ride at midday, from The Green Man in Thriplow, enabled the group of 8 Windmillers to not only make the most of the daylight but to indulge in tasty tapas and some fine beer on their return.
Joining Maurice were Andrew, Lawrence, Rod, Graham, Ric, John and Martin on a route which was to go northwards via Comberton and back via Harlton, Haslingfield, Barrington and Foxton. The map below is not quite where we went, having cut out the planned off road stretch between Harlton and Barrington and cycling up Chapel Hill from Haslingfield instead, which was somewhat drier and a bit shorter:
There was only one slight problem as we gathered at The Green Man – Rod had forgotten to bring the battery for his heavy e-bike but, undeterred and in true Windmiller gutsy style there was no dropping out. Rod decided to go for it and made it back just before his own battery went flat. Well done Rod, and Maurice too who had his battery control set on max but still tended to pedal with his left leg only…………
Luckily it was flat most of the way with little wind and the lanes were pleasantly quiet, except between Barton and Comberton but a cycle path for the school kids came in useful on that stretch.
Chapel Hill in Haslingfield was the real tester but both Rod and Maurice sailed up it with ease after which it was a nice freewheel downhill to Barrington and then left to Foxton, where a convenient cycle crossing over the railway line cuts out the notorious barriers which have been known to stay down for 15 minutes at a time on occasions.
After Foxton there was a bit of a headwind which was tough for Rod but we were soon whizzing back to Thriplow from Fowlmere, ready to tuck into some tapas. However, being a popular pre-Christmas pub, we had to prop up the bar for a while until a table was made ready after which we could settle down, practice our Scrabble skills and enjoy some delicious tapas.
It was good to find a friend of Martin and also Glen Ryan, Karen Broomhead, eating in the pub with her family:
There was also a despondent group of local LibDems drowning their sorrows, but they got close!
All agreed that another trip was necessary in the near future to try out some more tapas.
Well done, once again, to Maurice for achieving such progress so soon after his knee operation, and to Rod who will probably not forget his battery ever again!
Little did we know when fixing the date for the Christmas Lunch that it would coincide with Election Day but, thankfully, politics was not on the menu when 37 Windmillers and guests sat down to an excellent lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. Here is the delicious menu, all cooked to perfection by landlord Peter’s wife Jess (Peter also being an occasional Windmiller):
Gathering at noon for a 1.00pm start enabled plenty of time to chat beforehand, and also for Graham to dry out, having cycled from Ickleton in appalling weather – wet, cold and a strong headwind. If anyone was in need of a beer, he was.
Here we all are, thanks to Brian’s photos, getting in the mood for Christmas and celebrating a great year of cycling:
And after a glass of wine or three:
After lunch, Andrew sprang to his feet dressed smartly in his tartan trews, and welcomed members (who he described as a bunch of bastards – more later) and their guests to the lunch, the fifth he has organised since 2015 and which has nearly doubled in size from 20 to 37 guests. He thanked Peter and Jess, our hosts, and then welcomed Glen Ryan and Bridget Tarrington saying how much we all miss Kell and John, who sadly died in January. He also welcomed our new members and newcomers to the lunch – Charles and Fiona, Nick and Kath, Neil, Deborah, Howard and Lisa, and Frances.
Thanks were also given by Andrew to Maurice our leader for his help, guidance, route planning and managing our charity funds, whilst also wishing a continued speedy recovery from his recent knee operation. He thanked those who had donated bikes that were sold to raise the additional princely sum of £377 for charity – Vernon, Bridget and Simon O.
Due to Maurice being out of action towards the latter part of the year and Andrew cruising around on holiday, he also thanked those who had volunteered to organise rides – Simon T, Brian, Graham, Geoff, Victor, Sandra, Ken and Martin. These had provided a variety of interesting new routes which we look forward to repeating in the future.
As well as cycling around the Windmill Club territory and other parts of the UK, Andrew mentioned his ride across Brittany and Normandy in June with Lawrence, accompanied by Ken and Ann for part of the way plus Martin and Penny tagging along by car. A good time was had by all, except for Andrew’s four punctures on the same day.
Martin then staggered to his feet, stripping off his jacket as he did so but left it at that. Having analysed the year’s blog (www.thewindmillclubdotnet.wordpress.com) he provided a review of 2019 as follows:
No. of blog visitors: 562 to date (472 in whole of 2018) from 19 countries.
No. of views: 1,333 to date (1,397 in whole of 2018). Total views since inception, 6,899.
No. of rides: 66 to date – possibly more due to some Monday rides not being blogged but several cancellations due to weather (77 same time 2018).
Total distance recorded to date: 1,792 miles (1,994 in 2018). Longest ride: 51 miles to Ely on 4/4/. Shortest ride: 14 miles on 1/7 (referred to also later).
Largest total mileage by members to date (those with Strava records): 1. Graham – 6,426. 2. Sandra – 4,337. 3. Brian – 2,800. 4. Andrew – 2,578. Ric had probably clocked up an appreciable distance too.
Martin then said what a great year it had been for rides and thanked Maurice for his impeccable planning and also those who Andrew had mentioned earlier, as well as Andrew himself who not only organised many rides, Mondays in particular, but also carried out the bulk of the admin in running the club. Martin also thanked Brian in particular for his help on the blog and his wonderful photographs, and also Sandra who happily contributes whenever needed.
Andrew’s reference earlier to being a bunch of bastards picked up on a description of The Windmill Club given by new member Charles Joint on his first outing earlier in the year, and which has since become part of our folklore. Martin had to agree totally with Charles when, after returning from a bout of illness on 1/7 and starting the ride after Maurice, Andrew and Keith had set off, he discovered they were holed up in Elmdon having a beer with Simon and Ollie. They invited him to join them but he was near Duddenhoe End by that time, calling them all in similar terms over the phone to those used by Charles, and so all met up eventually at The Bull in Lower Langley.
No. of pubs visited. 28 (22 in 2018). Most frequented were The Bull and The Tally Ho ( 9 apiece) but most popular for lunch were The Fleur de Lys in Widdington and The Golden Fleece (5 apiece).
Largest no. of riders: 16 on 31/10. The smallest was 2 on 18/11.
Accidents, illnesses and ailments: Luckily, no major accidents this year, just a few illnesses and ailments with complete recovery by all concerned. After last year’s hip replacement Maurice showed once again his ability to recover quickly from major surgery by meeting for lunch on 31/10 in Boxworth after a ride that Ken organised, just 2 weeks after his operation. An operation of particular note was Andrew’s DIY replacement of a tooth with Super Glue.
Involuntary Dismount Prize 2019.: There were several candidates including Chris, Victor, Brian, Charles, Graham (not on a Windmill ride) and Nick (likewise). Victor had 2 dismounts but sprang up quickly from both but Brian had a spectacular low speed splat in Ware, which won him the prize.
Best suntan: Roger, who was busy topping it up again skiing in Tignes, and Maurice jointly. Maurice always has a ruddy glow about him.
Top speed prize 2019: Andrew, for clocking up 34mph descending from Littlebury Green whilst dodging the badgers.
Storyteller prize 2019: For good stories ranging from how to grab a bargain in charity shops to getting rid of stoats in an attic to learning about the discovery of DNA and readings of Rupert Brooke’s poetry, this prize went to Simon T.
Puncture prize 2019: Candidates included Brian, Roger, Keith (2 apiece) and Graham (3) but for making members wait in the polluted entrance of the Blackwall Tunnel whilst he attempted to replace a punctured tube with some dreadful patched up tubes, Martin’s solitary puncture gained him the prize.
Dodgy bike prize 2019: Once again, several candidates including Maurice (jammed chain), Andrew (broken gear support, again) and Victor (front brake jammed on). But for pedalling effectively uphill across the Fens for 40 miles and getting thoroughly exhausted in the process, the prize went to Victor.
Ferry bad prize 2019: For leading a ride all the way from Newbourne to the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry on 28/3 and finding that the ferry did not start operating for another 10 days, necessitating a U-turn, this prize was awarded to Maurice.
Going AWOL prize 2019: For steaming down a cycleway alongside the A12 on 8/8 whilst everyone else was turning left to Dunwich, this prize went to Deborah. Graham was given a special mention for chasing after her and returning her to the flock.
Doubting Thomas prize 2019: For not believing Martin on 6/9 when he said a ferry would arrive on a desolate shingle beach to take everyone back to Brightlingsea, only to discover that a snazzy rubber dinghy with a drop down loading ramp skippered by the harbourmaster did indeed arrive more or less on time, this prize was awarded jointly to Maurice, Andrew, Keith, Brian, Roger, Ric, Deborah, Charles and Graham. Lawrence had been included in the list but he claimed he always had utter faith and so his name was removed.
Hi-tech prize 2019: Excluding Strava users, there were 3 candidates – Geoff, Rod and Charles. Geoff has a fancy OS app on his phone, complete with extra power pack, which gives turn by turn instructions. Rod has a powerful e-bike which can send him a message if it gets nicked but the winner was Charles with his smart helmet which has Bluetooth, a microphone and a speaker which plays a regimental march at 6.30pm when it’s time to lock his chickens up, not to mention a flashing rear light. On top of this he has a smart watch with which he can pay bills in a pub. Say no more!
Mud prize 2019: By rights this prize should have gone to Andrew for leading a ride down a very rutted and muddy track between Widdington and Little Henham on 11/7 but for guaranteeing ‘a mud free ride or your money back’ on 28/11 the prize was awarded by a thin margin to Brian. For proof, see the photo of Deborah’s posterior.
At this point, just when heckling was about to take place due the time Martin had taken over his review, he handed the floor back to Andrew and Maurice for the most important part of the lunch – the awarding of the Windmill Club’s special awards for 2019 and the announcement of how much we had raised for charity and the recipients of the funds.
The first special award, the Golden Pedal, is awarded for regular attendance and general contribution to the Club’s activities. This year it was given to Graham for not only his contribution, including organising a ride on 5/12, but for clocking up an astonishing 6,426 miles as at 8/12 which is likely to be nearer to 7,000 by the end of the year if he keeps up the same average. That’s more than many people drive in a year. He has also climbed over 200 miles during this time! Well done, Graham!
The second award, the Senior Veteran Clubman of the Year, was presented to Vernon who, despite being in his 80th year, is a very regular attendee and continued cycling despite health issues. He is wonderful company socially and always popular on his birthday when he buys all the drinks! His first ride with the Windmill Club was in Feb 2013.
Maurice then announced that thanks to the Club having had another good year, £2,000 had been raised for charity, which was greeted with much applause. The recipients this year will be The EVE Appeal, the breast cancer charity (£250), The Cystic Fibrosis Trust (£250), Headway – the brain injury association (£1,000) and Macmillan Nurses (£500).
Finally, Maurice presented The Windmill Clubman of the Year Award to the person who works tirelessly for the club, handling the majority of the admin, organising rides, organising the Christmas lunch (with the help of his wife) and generally being the Super Glue of the club. And that person was Andrew – well applauded and well deserved!
And so another Christmas lunch drew to a close. We look forward to another good year in 2020 and wish all members and their families a very Happy Christmas.
Andrew was busy beating (birds, not carpets) and so Martin offered to organise a shortish ride from The Green Man in Thriplow, on what seemed early in the day to be a ride that might be cancelled due to high winds. But with a forecast of sun and less wind as the day went on it seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, and so it proved to be.
Simon and Charles were the other takers for the 13.30 start. Meeting in the bar beforehand we bumped into Lawrence who was not dressed in his snazzy new cycle outfit, modelled recently on Garret Hostel Lane bridge in Cambridge, but in serious lunching gear having met a couple of chums there. And what a good place it is to eat too. The roaring fire and good ales makes it a fine pub to visit on a winter’s day.
Charles was suffering from a bad back having slipped down some stairs just a day or so earlier at a swimming pool in Abu Dhabi and so was high on pain killers. Well done, Charles, for giving it a go and after a long flight too. That’s Windmill stamina for you.
This is where we went, anticlockwise:
The stretch from Fowlmere to Flint Cross on the A505 was blissfully quiet due to the road being dug up in the centre of Fowlmere. (There are so many similar roads that one wonders if Jeremy Corbyn’s free broadband for all has already started?)
It was still distinctly windy but the long climb from Flint Cross to Great Chishill was an absolute breeze (ugh!) with the wind dead behind. All it needed was a small sail and no pedalling would have been required. Half way up we had to stop, not from exertion but to take in what must be one of the finest views in South Cambridgeshire, looking towards a copse near Heydon:
Once at the top of the Great Chishill mountain it was more or less downhill all the way from Heydon to Chrishall Grange which was just as well as the wind was on our noses. Then it was down Grange Road to Duxford with the wind behind before re-crossing the A505 at Whittlesford and taking an off road track back to Thriplow which, thankfully, was not too muddy.
Thanks to Charles and Simon for joining me on the ride. Hopefully, Charles will be less black and blue by the time of the Christmas lunch.
The Flitch Way used to be a single track railway line between Bishops Stortford and Braintree but, thanks to Dr. Beeching who redrew the railway map of Great Britain in the 1950s, it is now a delightful cycle / pedestrian route instead which our leader for the day Graham incorporated into this ride, commencing in Old Harlow where Graham used to work.
Unfortunately for Graham, who decided to cycle from Ickleton to Old Harlow down his former cycle commuting route, he picked up a couple of punctures probably from the hawthorn needles which cover the lanes at this time of year. It was a bitterly cold and foggy morning and having struggled to replace the first tube his hands were somewhat numb by the time the second happened and so with time pressing he put out a MAYDAY call which Brian picked up and diverted towards Stocking Pelham where Graham was stranded. Meanwhile, several of the others on the ride had gathered at The Queen’s Head or nearby due to the road outside being dug up, and headed to a cosy caff in the back room of the local shop to keep warm with mugs of coffee.
Eventually, Brian and Graham arrived but there was still the second puncture to mend.
And so, 45 mins later than planned Graham led Andrew, Brian, Ken, Rod, Roger, Geoff, Howard and Martin eastwards and downwind along very quiet lanes, several of them National Cycle Routes, towards our coffee stop at the Meadow Hill café in Dunmow, where the fruit cake, buns and scones were declared to be excellent.
Fruit cakes in Dunmow
Fruit cakes in Dunmow
After coffee it was time to head back west and having crossed the busy A120 via a bridge we were soon cycling along the very straight Flitch Way with just the odd barrier to squeeze through here and there, and little or no mud – definitely a ride which Graham could have declared ‘guaranteed mud free or your money back’ but after last week’s experience decided it might be wiser not to. Eventually we came to a halt, appropriately enough, at Stane Street Halt, where trains had to be flagged down if a passenger wanted to get on. And for those wishing to get off, passengers had to ask the guard who then had to ask the driver if he would be ever so kind as to halt at Stane Street. Guards had a useful job to do in those days!
We exited the Flitch Way at this point and then made our way around Hatfield Forest to Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath, all looking glorious in the winter sunshine.
The wind appeared to increase a bit on the final leg and so we were ready to sample some fine ales and enjoy a hearty lunch when we arrived back at The Queen’s Head.
This is where we went, the Flitch Way being the easy bit to spot:
Thanks, Graham, for arranging a fantastic ride and for introducing us to your old stamping ground in Old Harlow. We’re glad you accepted a lift back to Ickleton with Ken. Two punctures is quite enough in one day.
Thanks also to Andrew for organising us all and we hope his back is no longer broke.
Starting from The White Horse Inn in Ridgewell on the A1017, between Haverhill and Castle Hedingham, this was a canny figure of eight ride devised by Geoff which took in some delightful new lanes whilst also incorporating some familiar ones. Assembling at 9.00am to have coffee and place lunch orders, eleven Windmillers set off soon afterwards led by Geoff and followed by Andrew, Rod, Ken, Roger, Lawrence, Deborah, Graham, Tom, Howard and Martin. Unfortunately, Charles had suffered a puncture on his car en route but he caught up with us later.
This is where we went, in a clockwise direction:
Before setting off, there was some concern about the health of both Andrew and Roger as both appeared to be trying to access the defibrillator on the pub’s outside wall:
The roads were wet and muddy in places, but not too bad, and the day was reasonably warm compared to recent weeks which made for a very pleasant ride through typically quiet Essex lanes. There was only one point where a decision had to be made as to whether to use a bridge over a ford or go for it, the majority deciding to take the safe route whilst others took the plunge.
Lawrence and Graham decide to take the plunge.
After 16 miles – perfect timing – we pulled into the Blue Egg café outside Great Bardfield, which must surely represent the best run caff in East Anglia. They not only serve wonderful coffee and cakes, at good prices, but also cope with sudden onslaughts of customers with great ease and efficiency. (This Editor is not on commission.)
Putting on weight with Blue Egg delicacies.
Ready for the off once again, with Charles now on board too.
Heading through Great Bardfield we had to stop, of course, for a photo call outside Gibraltar Windmill which has been converted into a residence:
Skirting Finchingfield and its fine windmill we continued northwards to Howe Street and then back to Ridgewell via Stambourne Green and Birdbrook to a warm welcome and excellent fare at The White Horse, where it was great to be joined by Ric who had cycled over from Harston and Brian who had come by car, making it 14 for lunch.
Thanks were given over lunch to Geoff who organised a superb ride and led us around the lanes using the latest handlebar mounted technology.
Needless to say, Graham had cycled to Ridgewell from Ickleton and refused the offer of a lift back, clocking up around 70 miles for the day and adding to his total of several thousand miles this year. Well done, Graham!
There were just two Windmillers, Rod and Martin, who embarked on this cold but glorious Autumn ride from The Blind Fiddler in Anstey at 2.00pm, to ensure we got back in time before darkness set in. But once we got going we soon warmed up, not only through the effort of pedalling but also when we stopped at Maurice’s house for a cuppa. Thanks Maurice and Linda!
The aim was to explore a hamlet near Chrishall, known as both Building End and Builden End, but with the sun low in the sky and Great Chishill windmill looking spectacular we had to pay our respects, which Rod very kindly offered to do. This must be a first to have a solitary Windmiller posing in front of a windmill.
Having stripped off a layer due to the climb up to Barley and Great Chishill, we were soon descending to the turning to Building / Builden End, where we reckoned the dead end lane with some lovely old houses and cottages would become a smooth byway. Charles J had already indicated that this would be the case but it was a joy to behold – a smooth wide track that climbed gently and emerged on the road towards Lower Langley. A useful discovery.
Then it was past the closed Bull and on towards Brent Pelham before returning to Anstey and receiving another warm welcome from the landlord and customers of The Blind Fiddler.
This is where we went:
Thanks, Rod, for accompanying me! We had a good ride.
Occasionally Windmillers come across closed roads that can easily be got around, usually on a path for pedestrians. This time it was different. There was no path but just heaps of spoil from a large trench being dug in the road between Langley Lower Green to Roast Green. After much squelching in sticky mud and traversing ditches the refuse-to-be-beaten Windmillers got through.
Earlier, the gang of five including Andrew, Rod, Simon, Nick and Martin had departed on a circuit from the Blind Fiddler in Anstey for a change, on a route devised by Martin. The Blind Fiddler’s opening hours were conducive to an afternoon ride in mid-November, being open all afternoon. This is where we went:
Unfortunately, Nick had fallen off his bike the day before and was still suffering a bit and so he peeled off in Nuthampsted at The Woodman. The remainder continued past Bridget Tarrington’s house, who we look forward to seeing at the Christmas lunch, and then to the spoil heap via Shaftenhoe End, Little Chishill and Langley Lower Green, passing en route the byway from Building End near Chrishall which we aim to try out one day.
Having hauled Rod’s heavy e-bike through the mud and scraped the mud off it, and our shoes, on we went through the now fading light but enjoying the sunset and reasonable road conditions despite the amount of rain that had fallen recently. A nice surprise was the lack of a ford on Violets Lane near Washall Green, enabling us to climb the concrete track to Furneux Pelham. From there it was a steady ride back to a warm welcome at The Blind Fiddler, and sustenance in front of a roaring fire.
A good turnout of 11 Windmillers gathered at The Fox and Duck in Therfield on this cold and windy Autumn day to take part in a ride organised by Victor, and to celebrate Vernon’s birthday at the same time. Some were expecting milder weather and luckily team leader Victor came with spare jackets and gloves which he doled out to Simon and Deborah to prevent them getting frostbite.
It wasn’t long, however, before Graham felt the cold too thanks to a puncture during the first half mile heading down to the A505, resulting in a painful tyre changing session, helped by Vernon.
Some had gone on ahead, to Macdonalds we thought, some were sheltering from the wind behind a hedge but it wasn’t long before all met up having had to endure a short stretch of the A505 before turning right towards Litlington. Turning left towards Steeple Morden was when the full force of the wind was felt and so a stop at the memorial to the 355th Fighter Group of the American airforce to pay our respects to those who died came as a pleasant rest.
The lanes were open and quiet as we worked our way steadily towards Ashwell, at one stage wondering just which way to go:
At Ashwell’s Rhubarb and Mustard coffee shop, some hardy types sat outside whilst others warmed up inside, which had the advantage of access to the beauty parlour. Roger was stopped just in time from heading up the stairs.
Then it was head down once again as we battled our way to Baldock, thinking of how wonderful the return leg would be, and so it proved to be. Heading up the hill out of Baldock towards Wallington was a dream with the wind behind and we were soon stopping outside George Orwell’s cottage honking away like the characters from Animal farm.
Old Major (Vernon?)– An aged prize Middle White boar provides the inspiration that fuels the rebellion. He is an allegorical combination of Karl Marx, one of the creators of communism, and Vladimir Lenin, the communist leader of the Russian Revolution (claimed by Martin as he rides a Revolution bike) and the early Soviet nation, in that he draws up the principles of the revolution. His skull being put on revered public display recalls Lenin.
Napoleon – “A large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way”. An allegory of Joseph Stalin, Napoleon is the main villain of Animal Farm.
Snowball – Napoleon’s rival and original head of the farm after Jones’ overthrow. His life parallels that of Leon Trotsky, but may also combine elements from Lenin.[c]
Squealer – A small, white, fat porker who serves as Napoleon’s second-in-command and minister of propaganda, holding a position similar to that of Vyacheslav Molotov.
Minimus (definitely Lawrence) – A poetic pig who writes the second and third national anthems of Animal Farm after the singing of “Beasts of England” is banned. Rodden compares him to the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
The piglets – Hinted to be the children of Napoleon and are the first generation of animals subjugated to his idea of animal inequality.
Pinkeye – A minor pig who is mentioned only once; he is the pig that tastes Napoleon’s food to make sure it is not poisoned, in response to rumours about an assassination attempt on Napoleon
With thanks to Wikipedia.
Continuing on through Sandon and Kelshall it wasn’t long before all were back at The Fox and Duck and considerably warmer than when setting off, having enjoyed an excellent ride.
Vernon and Roger happy to be back in Therfield
It was great to be joined by no-sticks Maurice, looking very fit and dapper, and Ken. After a hearty rendering of Happy Birthday to Vernon we sat down to an excellent lunch, washed down with some fine ales and drinks all of which were paid for by Vernon. Cheers Vernon!
Thanks go to Victor for planning a great ride and of course to our hardworking dawg Andrew for organising us all. We look forward to seeing Maurice on his bike agian in the not too distant future.
It was indeed a surprise to come across a low flying Apache helicopter circling around the same area between Elmdon and Strethall, sometimes just a few metres from the ground. We stopped to take a look and, spotting our hi-viz jackets, the pilot obligingly hovered close by and gave us a wave. It appeared to be a low level training routine rather than a police-style drug bust.
Our gang of four Windmillers led by Andrew and followed by Simon, Charles and Martin had set off at 3.00pm on this colourful Autumn afternoon from The Bull at Lower Langley on a circuit via Little Chishill, Great Chishill, Elmdon, Catmere End, Littlebury Green, Duddenhoe End and back to The Bull.
Getting ready for the off, Stripey Socks Charles, Andrew and Simon
Looking towards Great Chishill windmill
The second stop was a sad sight, the once glorious Pheasant in Great Chishill, and the first base of The Windmill Club, had shut up shop and is apparently looking for a buyer. Here’s Andrew paying his last respects:
and this is the sad message outside:
In Elmdon we admired the church in the autumn light and then said farewell to Charles who was feeling a little under the weather (get well soon Charles!).
The remaining three set off towards Ickleton but stopped almost immediately to admire the work of a flint wall craftsman rebuilding the church wall. His name was Shane Cahill. ‘Do you know a Sarah Cahill?’, asked Martin. ‘Yes’, Shane said, ‘I’m married to a Sarah, who are you?’ It turned out that his Sarah was the same Sarah who worked for Martin several years ago, the second Monday running that he has come across a relation of an ex-employee whilst on a Windmill ride. They live in Chrishall and so if you need a flint wall rebuilding you know who to contact. Will there be a hat trick on the 11th Martin wondered?
With the light already beginning to fade, we had to speed downhill towards Ickleton and turn right towards Catmere End only to come across the circling Apache, which needed inspecting at close hand whilst it also inspected us, luckily with no guns blazing. Here are some more pics of the evil looking machine:
On we whizzed with our own lights blazing, Apache style, Andrew achieving a creditable 34 mph downhill from Littlebury Green towards Duddenhoe End, and on to Langley Upper Green before finally arriving back at The Bull 10 minutes before opening time. But feeling sorry for the three dogs panting outside on the doorstep landlady Sarah let us in before 5.00pm so that our thirsts could be quenched.
Thanks to Andrew for planning the route and organising us. The 16 miles felt more like 20+.
Six Windmillers set off from The Bull at Lower Langley at 3.00pm – Andrew, Sandra (who rode from home and back again in the dark), Keith, Tim, Nick and Martin. Sadly, Nick had to peel off quite early on due to his shoes slipping badly on his pedals but we hope to see him again soon with the problem fixed, having received various recommendations from the remainder of the gang. This is where we went:
Being half term week, the lanes were blissfully empty of big Volvos and Range Rovers charging along full of children returning home from school. DPD and DHL vans were elsewhere too which enabled us to amble along, albeit averaging over 12mph, and have a natter about Andrew’s recent cruise, Tim’s successful racing season and other topics.
It was in Duddenhoe End that Andrew spotted what looked initially like a potential new member, smartly dressed by the roadside with a hi-viz jacket holding a black container but there was no bike. Stopping to take a closer look he got the fright of his life when the figure turned out to be a spooky dummy offering sweets for Halloween trick or treaters. On closer inspection there seemed to be an even greater resemblance to Andrew himself as this picture shows!
Back at The Bull, where a fascinating Pennine Dark and Light beer was on offer, we enjoyed chatting to the landlady Sarah, who turns out to be the sister of one of Martin’s best ever employees. Small world!
Thanks go to Andrew for organising the circuit and getting us round in daylight. For the next few weeks, good lights and hi viz wear will be mandatory.
What do Francis Crick, Mary Archer, the Guided Busway and Rupert Brooke have in common? Answer: They were all part of Simon’s fascinating educational tour of South Cambridgeshire on this fine autumn day which encompassed science, engineering, poetry and the Archers – an everyday story of Granchester folk.
Starting from Martin’s house in Ickleton after coffee and biscuits and a quick wizz around his field maze on their bikes, thirteen Windmillers comprising Simon, Sandra, Keith (celebrating his birthday), Brian, Roger, Ric, Lawrence, Graham, Nigel, Geoff, Charles, Neil and Martin set off in the direction of Duxford stopping briefly at the Ickleton Lion for any last minute arrivals.
Navigating the maze
…hotly pursued by Sandra, Keith, Brian, Lawrence, Simon and Graham
This is what Simon had planned for our enjoyment:
After crossing the A505 at Duxford, when Simon somehow achieved a Jesus-like parting of the traffic allowing all to cross simultaneously, we waited for Graham to catch up before taking the bike path from Whittlesford to Sawston and continuing along the newly upgraded bike path to Stapleford and Shelford, passing Tom’s house as we did so. Then the science bit started, with a ride along the now famous DNA bike path towards Addenbrooke’s Hospital:
At the end of the bike path we stopped to admire the complex of buildings and roads on the Addenbrooke’s site and to hear Simon talk about Francis Crick and Jim Watson who discovered DNA in 1953, with the considerable assistance of one of their researchers, Rosalind Franklin, who was not credited to the same extent and who, some might argue, should also have been in line for a Nobel prize.
Next stop was the busway and bike path alongside to Trumpington, stopping to hear from Simon about its development and issues since construction, including a bus careering across the bike path and ploughing into a bank a couple of years ago, just a week before the Windmill Club passed the same spot………. Opinions are divided as to whether this represents progress in transportation.
The Cambridge busway at Trumpington
Granchester was the next stop, reached by a delightful path behind the Park and Ride car park, across a huge new country park and diving into thick woods leading to Byron’s Pool before passing the Archers’ Old Vicarage and entering the famous Orchard Tea Garden. Famous not only for Rupert Brooke and his poetry, quoted by Simon during coffee (the first verse of The Soldier is on the plan above) but also frequented by dozens of other famous people including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, Francis Crick, D H Lawrence, A A Milne, H G Wells, Ted Hughes, Henry James, King George VI, Prince Edward and now a group of illustrious Windmillers too!
Ken joined us during coffee and so we were fourteen as we started on the homeward leg via some off road tracks leading over the M11 towards Barton and then on to Haslingfield, Harston and Newton before taking another off road stretch to Whittlesford along what turned out to be a smooth track whilst some decided to take the direct route back to the Ickleton Lion.
True to the Windmill tradition, having owned up to having a birthday Keith very kindly bought a round of drinks and received a hearty rendering of Happy Birthday to You in return. Over lunch we thought of Maurice and his knee operation taking place that day and wished him well. Charles impressed us with his method of paying his bill – no cash, no credit card, just his smart watch and phone. Windmillers are always ahead of the game.
Thanks were given to Simon for planning and executing such a great ride and we are all looking forward to the others that are taking place during the absence of Maurice and Andrew – no pressure on the organisers!
Well done to the several members who clocked up considerably more than 28 miles on this ride due to riding to and from their homes, namely Sandra, Ric, Brian, Neil and Geoff.
P.S. Maurice’s operation went very well and he is now back home on crutches and climbing stairs.
We could just as easily have been in Cornwall tucking into vast numbers of scones with butter, jam and great dollops of clotted cream (on top of course, Cornish style). But it was actually the coffee stop at Maurice and Lynn’s house where Lynn laid on the great feast for us all to enjoy. But where was two scones Keith we all asked? He would have been in his element.
Before arriving, the 11 Windmillers had set off once again from The Golden Fleece at Braughing having placed their orders for lunch. The route took us through yet more of Maurice’s quiet Hertfordshire lanes which provide ample opportunities for chatting along the way. This is where we went, clockwise, except for the return leg which was via Barley and Nuthampstead:
At Maurice’s, it was great to see (and hear) the progress he has made over the past 2 years renovating and converting his Douglas Dragonfly motor cycle to become Honda powered, complete with disc brakes and an electric start – a far cry from the original but making it very road worthy and safe. He has already completed over 200 trouble free miles with not even an oil leak. Well done Maurice! We are all looking forward to seeing what your next project might be, which will no doubt be starting soon after his impending knee operation.
During the feast of scones, Lynn’s large collection of medals for great feats of athletics were spotted in the loo and brought outside for all to admire, much to the embarrassment of Lynn. Maurice tells the story of how in the early days of the Windmill Club, five members including himself, Lynn, John Tarrington, Rod Kennedy and one other, cycled 100km during the night in London to raise money for Save the Children. They started from Crystal Palace at 11.00pm and went round the Isle of Dogs and across London to Alexandra Palace via a number of bridges including Tower Bridge and London Bridge, finishing at 5.00am. Lynn’s medals include one for taking part in this event.
Sure enough, the return leg to Braughing got us back to The Golden Fleece bang on time for an excellent lunch, thanks to Maurice’s impeccable planning and no incidents en route, despite having to ride along a lane of freshly cut hawthorn hedge at one stage.
During lunch Victor very kindly offered a spare cycling jersey which was the wrong size for him. Simon firstly had a go at getting his head through the opening, without success, whilst also declaring his chest size as being too big (well, he was a rugby player in his youth). Geoff then had a go and declared it a perfect fit and so we expect to see him sporting it on a future ride when, no doubt, we will mistake him for Victor.
Will it fit? Simon struggles to take possession of the spare jersey and gives up.
Voila! It fits Geoff like a dream.
This ride was possibly the last that Maurice would be able to take part in for a while due to his knee operation on 17th October (since confirmed due to bad weather on Monday 14th October). We therefore drank his health, wished him well and we look forward to seeing him again soon at a lunch. Knowing Maurice, it won’t be long before that new knee is pushing pedals again.
Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride, to Lynn for the coffee and scones and Andrew for organising us all.
Starting from The Tally Ho in Barkway, this ride took in both familiar and unfamiliar lanes. Maurice led the way followed by Andrew, Simon, Nick and Martin. Andrew was recovering from a major tooth operation a couple of days before and so got full marks for turning out. Spot the unfamiliar bit if you can:
It was familiar territory as far as the 10 mile mark, where we sadly lost Nick who took a right at the bottom of the hill coming down from Elmdon instead of a left to follow the others but by the time we discovered this it was a bit too late. Moral of the story, wait at junctions after fast descents preceded by hills. Sorry, Nick!
The remaining four continued towards Arkesden but Andrew promptly took charge as we rounded a sharp bend and took us down a gravel track through delightful woods, emerging once again onto the Arkesden road. This can be seen above between the 10 and 15 mile marks. Definitely a track to do again on a dry day, perhaps with some clippers to cut through the odd bramble branch.
After Arkesden Andrew again took us off our familiar route up a lane to take a look at his brother in law’s new weekend pad which he had just taken possession of, a somewhat large barn conversion set in 2 acres with an easy walk down to The Axe and Compasses. What more could one ask of a country retreat?
Then it was on to Clavering and Meesden passing Nick’s house on the way and hoping to see him back at The Tally Ho but it was not to be. The sunflower field opposite his house looked in fine fettle, clearly taking advantage of climate warming.
A large contingent of Windmillers gathered at Andrew’s house in Wendens Ambo on this fine late summer’s day with just a hint of autumnal nip in the air. And it wasn’t because we knew in advance that it was Nigel’s birthday and that he would be buying the drinks. So, led by Andrew and followed by Maurice (enjoying not being responsible for map reading for a change), Keith, Brian, Ric, Roger, Simon T, Geoff, Deborah, Lawrence, Nigel, Charles and Howard, the group set off in the direction of Hill Bastardo up to Littlebury Green and were met by Ken and Martin who had cycled up from Ickleton, making 15 in all. Is this a Windmill record? Brian and Ric, however, rode from their homes in Shelford and Harston and so clocked up 40+ miles.
This is where we went, clockwise:
Other than crossing the busy A505 at Duxford, the roads were pleasantly quiet and so there was plenty of time early on to take in big views towards Saffron Walden and Ickleton and admire the neat harvested fields. We had to cross the same railway line three times, which could potentially have meant waiting up to 20 minutes given the new barriers in Ickleton and Sawston but, luckily, we were only held up once. Andrew’s route took us via the bridge over the A11 at Little Abington, where an archaeological dig was being carried out prior to some road changes, and then on to Linton via an off road track from Hildersham. Hoping to see the Jura Comtois horses in action again (having seen them on a previous ride), and the lady in charge, we were disappointed that there was no sign of either.
En route from Whittlesford to Sawston, photos taken by Brian in his usual horizontal pose
The Linton Kitchen is a favourite coffee stop and once again they produced excellent coffee and cakes for hungry Windmillers, whilst imprisoning a few behind bars:
The return leg involved a pleasant climb up through Hadstock and then a fast run down to Little Walden and on to Saffron Walden before enjoying an excellent lunch back at The Bell Inn in Wendens Ambo where we celebrated Nigel’s birthday with a fine rendering of Happy Birthday to You – a Windmill choir in the making, perhaps, but needing some training from choirmeister Lawrence before performing in public. Sadly, Charles could not stay for lunch but bid us farewell with his usual ‘Goodbye, you bastards!’.
A lunchtime bonus, particularly for those of us not having to drive, was to sample the barrels remaining from a beer festival held the previous weekend. And what fine beers they were too!
Thanks go to Andrew for planning and leading the way, Nigel for buying a large round of birthday drinks and Brian for the pics.
A duck walks into a bar and asks, “Got any plums?” The bartender, confused, tells the duck that no, his bar doesn’t serve plums. The duck thanks him and leaves. The next day, the duck returns and says, “Got any plums?” Again, the bartender tells him that, no, the bar does not serve plums, has never served plums, and, furthermore, will never serve plums. The duck, a little ruffled, thanks him and leaves. The next day, the duck returns, but before he can say anything, the bartender begins to yell: “Listen, duck! This is a bar! We do not serve plums! If you ever ask for plums again, I will nail your stupid duck beak to the bar!” The duck is silent for a moment, and then asks, “Got any nails?” Confused, the bartender says no. “Good!” says the duck. “Got any plums?”
Ok, ugh! Now if that duck had been cycling through Starling’s Green on this sunny summer’s evening in the company of Andrew, Nick, Tim and Martin, he would have been delighted to come across a plum tree on the side of the road laden with ripe plums. Tim and Martin had missed it and waited ages for Andrew and Nick to appear but they had been gorging themselves on said plums and filling their saddle bags to take home to make pies, jams or tarts. Windmillers are used to seeing roadkill and the odd onion or carrot but this is the first time we had come across such a feast of plums, which tasted like Victorias but were slightly smaller.
Not wishing to miss out, the next day Martin happened to be passing by car what he thought was the same spot but there was no sign of the tree. A call to Andrew and a chat with some local ladies soon established that he was in the wrong place but having found the tree he and Penny quickly filled their bags with plums and here is the result:
It had been an eventful ride long before discovering the plum tree. The first stop after starting from The Bull at Lower Langley was just outside Meesden to check out the nuclear bunker hidden deep in some undergrowth which we had viewed from a distance before but not close up. It is rumoured that the interior still contains some original furniture but no one volunteered to climb down the ladder to take a look. Instead we clambered upwards to what might have been a lookout post to admire the view.
Andrew’s route then took us to Great Hormead where another stop was made to examine a memorial to an American airman whose fighter plane crashed soon after take off from Duxford in 1944:
This leisurely ride resulted in another familiar stop outside St. Mary’s Church in Furneux Pelham which recently had all its lead roof removed by thieves, causing over £225,000 worth of damage. The church’s motto is Time Flies – Mind Your Business, supposedly a reference to harvests having to stop work at 6.00pm to allow gleaners onto the land to pick up what they could from spilt corn.
Then it was on to Starling’s Green for plum picking by Andrew and Nick before we regrouped near Ford End and continued back to The Bull via Langley Upper Green, where there were some fine beers on tap.
This is where we went:
Thanks go to Andrew for planning the route and organising us. It was indeed a plum crazy ride.
Meeting at The Bull, Lower Langley, at 5.00pm, Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Simon, Charles and Martin set off on a southerly circuit taking in Clavering, Arkesden, Rickling, Manuden and the Pelhams. Sandra had already ridden 22 miles and so her total for the afternoon must have been nearer 50, whilst Charles rode from and back to Chrishall clocking up over 30 miles, dressed smartly in his long doggie socks which provide clear identification.
Charles also wore a rather fancy helmet with Bluetooth, a microphone and rear flashing lights, a present from a generous daughter it seems. Definitely one for the Christmas wish list this year.
This is where we went, clockwise:
The lanes were quiet – just the odd tractor and car but no Range Rover or Volvo mums screeching round bends coming back from the school run. However, Andrew did flag down one Volvo mum just as were setting off to point out that the jockey wheel on her pony trailer that she was towing was too low. Being the gentleman he is, he quickly adjusted it for her and she went safely on her way.
A tame buzzard was seen perching happily on some telegraph wires without a care in the world as we approached Rickling and Sandra commented that she had seen a herd of deer in the same area earlier. With at least half the harvest in, the countryside was already beginning to look autumnal in places due to ploughing and field cultivations.
A quick stop outside The Cricketers in Rickling was made to check on the renovation progress, which appeared to be finished and so a mental note was made to pay a longer visit soon. Being in charge of photography for the evening, Andrew then dashed off ahead on the way to Manuden to try and emulate Brummie Brian by taking action shots from a horizontal position in the long grass. Sandra reached him first and thought initially he had fallen off his bike whilst Martin’s first reaction was that he looked like a traveller of no fixed abode looking for somewhere to sleep. What we didn’t know was that he was busy taking some fine photographs of Windmillers huffing and puffing up a short incline:
Here they come……….
Sandra, first up the hill, as always……..
Maurice and Martin hot on her heels……….
Simon putting on a spurt alongside Maurice
,,,,,and finally Charles, probably listening to some music via his Bluetooth helmet.
A brief stop was then made outside Martin’s daughter’s house in Manuden to see if she was in but there was no sign of life and so we continued onwards through the Pelhams. At precisely 18.30 hours there was the sound of regimental music coming from what Martin thought was Charles’s Bluetooth helmet but it was actually his snazzy watch alarm reminding him to lock the chickens up. There followed a discussion about the Sussex Regiment and a somewhat poor rendering was given of another military favourite, Sussex by-the-Sea. Luckily the others were out of earshot.
Simon had told us during the ride of the poor health recently of his mother, who lives by herself in Worcester. The good news is that she is now better and out of hospital. Simon found himself in Worcester without any spare clothing, not expecting to have to look after his mother for several days, but solved the problem by paying a visit to local charity shops where he equipped himself with a complete new wardrobe including brand new shirts for £20! We did wonder if the smart trousers he was wearing had been part of the purchase but this proved not to be the case. (Not one to miss a bargain, Martin has since acquired a brand new lightweight jacket for a fiver from the Salvation Army shop in Saffron Walden.)
After a very pleasant two hour ride we pulled up outside The Bull once more where there was a fine selection of beers to choose from and nuts to chew on.
Thanks, Maurice, for a good route and Andrew for his fine photography and organisation.
Starting from The Royal Oak, Laxfield, a bit later than planned due to a road closure which affected several participants, 11 Windmillers set off already fortified by a shot of caffeine kindly laid on by the pub. Maurice led the way through the Suffolk lanes towards the coast followed dutifully by Andrew, Keith, Roger, Lawrence, Deborah, Graham, Geoff, Charles, Howard and Martin. This is where we went, all except Martin who had to peel off in Walberswick and return earlier:
The lanes were fairly quiet even though this was peak holiday season, thanks perhaps to satnavs rarely choosing anything other than motorways, A or B roads. Apologising for the lack of hills at one point, Maurice navigated us swiftly towards the A12 with the help of a strong tail wind. Crossing the very busy A12 took a while, some achieving a gap in the traffic whilst others headed down a cycle path before waiting patiently for another gap to appear. It was at this point that Deborah was seen to hurtle pass those waiting to cross whilst she continued southwards on the cycle path towards Ipswich. Shouting above the noise of the traffic had no effect and so Graham gallantly took on the role of retriever Dawg and sped off in hot pursuit to apprehend Deborah and bring her to heel. Meanwhile the first group had set off at a pace towards Westleton and Dunwich, perhaps wanting to be the first to see the sea, but eventually we all regrouped and entered Dunwich together.
As time was a bit pressing and there was a lot more of the coast to come, it was decided not to cycle another 100 yards and see the sea. The next stop was Walberswick, the crabbing capital of the world according to most children, but the route was via John Bagrie’s sandy track through the woods which all agreed to tackle. And great fun it was too with all emerging safely onto the tarmac again on a back lane leading into Walberswick.
It was at this point that Martin had to return to Laxfield along much the same route as the others were to follow later, clocking up 34 miles in total, but missing out on the fun and games to follow. It turns out that after sampling the Adnams in The Lord Nelson in Southwold, the Windmillers split up into two groups but reached the bridge over the River Blyth leading to Walberswick at the same time (the bridge being used originally for a narrow gauge railway line). The story from Andrew then goes like this. Firstly a flamboyant lady in a flowing dress riding a bicycle at speed with a large wicker basket on the front gave one of the Windmiller groups a telling off for riding on a footpath. She then dismounted and pushed her bicycle over the bridge, followed gingerly by the Windmillers, until mounting again on the other side and shooting off at high speed only to be shouted at fiercely by a Walberswick lady walking her two dogs saying she was riding too fast and furthermore tried to pull her from her bike by grabbing the flowing dress, without success luckily. Andrew said it was like something out of a classic British comedy movie. The moral of this story is Beware Walberswick Women!
Martin’s route took him via the pretty village of Bramfield which had the distinction of having both a thatched church, St. Andrew’s no less, with a separate tower, fine wall paintings and also another example of a crinkle crankle wall:
The strong tail breeze on the way to the coast was on the nose for most of the way back which, coupled with some real hills, made the going somewhat slower but the magnificent scenery particularly around Walpole more than made up for the extra effort needed.
A late lunch was had by the main party of Windmillers who also celebrated Deborah’s birthday in fine style. Happy birthday, Deborah, and thanks for buying the drinks! Meanwhile, Martin was en route to a hot and sweaty shed also known as Luton Airport.
Thanks to Maurice for planning and leading the way and to Saint Andrew for his organisation and stories.