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Braughing Therfield

A low key St Patrick’s Day

It was a St Patrick’s Day outing so, by rights, Brian our resident Irishman should have been wearing green and buying the Guinness. Alas, he forgot to wear green – and he kept pretty quiet about the Guinness. Nevertheless, we were cheered by the prospect of free beer at lunchtime, courtesy of Roger, this week’s birthday boy.

It was a glorious spring morning with daffodils and blossom much in evidence as thirteen Windmillers set out from Therfield for a 30 mile tour of NE Herts. The gang comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Ken, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Roger, Sandra and Tom. Apologies / cast iron excuses had been tendered by Simon (covid), Martin (skiing) and Rod (Australia).

Ken, Roger and Graham at Cromer Mill

Mid-way around, we pulled in at Braughing where Jess opened up the Fleece specially for us and served coffee and cake in the garden.

Tom, Deborah, Sandra, Maurice and Nigel on top of the world

Back on the bikes we took the return leg at quite a lick, spurred on by the prospect of free beer. We were delighted to find Suzanne waiting for us at the pub; having cycled from Abington she was just as thirsty as the rest of us. But thirstiest of all were Graham and Victor who had also cycled from home, then done the 30 mile circuit and had yet to make the return journey. Well done, all

Ken, Howard, Graham, Tom and birthday boy Roger
Ric, Sandra, Maurice, Nigel, Suzanne and Victor

Thanks are due to Maurice and Andrew for getting everyone organised, plus, of course, Roger: thanks and happy birthday!

Brian

30 miles anticlockwise: Therfield – Kelshall – Sandon – Rushden – Ardeley – Great Munsden – Puckeridge – Braughing – Dassels – Great Hormead – Nuthampstead – Barkway – Reed – Therfield
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Braughing

Odd sock shocker

Did he get dressed in the dark? Does Fiona know he’s out? Will the polo club turn him away? Such were the questions troubling the Windmillers on seeing Charles – normally the acme of sartorial elegance – turn up in odd socks.

That aside, it was another good turnout; 18 riders, some arriving on two wheels, others on four, as we gathered in the car park of the Golden Fleece, Landlady Jess taking our orders for lunch.

Maurice led the way northwards out of Braughing, momentarily confusing those of us whose GPX devices advised heading south. No matter, within half a mile both Maurice and satnavs were in agreement as we headed for the Pelhams and Rickling.

It was a longish first stage, Maurice having planned our refreshment stop at the Silver Leys Polo Club some 20 miles distant. The polo season was long over – but there was a dressage competition underway in the arena. Simon, ever keen to get in on the action, got a little too close and was asked to step back lest he spook the horses. He has a similar effect on car drivers.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were enjoying coffee and some very fine cake, made specially in anticipation of our visit by the lovely lady who runs the clubhouse. She regaled us with stories of horrendous polo injuries, her own included. It’s not just falls, they can suffer some nasty facial injuries when struck by the ball. Apparently it is impractical to wear cricket-style helmets and face guards as they raise the risk of a broken neck when you fall. This summer alone, the air ambulance has paid the club two visits. And they say cycling is dangerous.

Back on the bikes, we headed for Standon and Puckeridge before returning to Fleece where Pete and Jess served up another excellent lunch. This week’s birthday boy was Chris, who duly bought us all a beer.

Happy Birthday, Chris!

For the record, this week’s team roster was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff,Graham, John, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon, Suzanne and Victor.

Good to see John again

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for planning the route and arranging things at the polo club, Andrew for getting everyone organised, Chris for the beers, and Martin, Graham and Simon for the photographs (too many to include here but they’re all in the Windmill Club Photo Album).

Martin’s new haircut; it’ll look good when it’s finished
28 miles clockwise: Braughing – the Pelhams – Rickling – Rickling Green – Manuden – Hazel End – Upwick Green – Little Hadham – Silver Leys Polo Club – Standon – Puckeridge – Braughing

Brian

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Braughing Henham

Idling at Elsenham

Last Train to Clarksville . . . Midnight Train to Georgia . . . Chattanooga Choo-Choo . . . but alas, nobody sings about Elsenham and waiting for the barriers to open, even though there’s time aplenty, 15 minutes in our case, to draft a ditty.

So there we were exchanging banter with the crossing keeper, our party of ten Windmillers having just set out from The Cock at Henham, and barely 2 miles into a 30 mile tour of North Essex / North Herts. We had come close to being just nine Windmillers, Rod having forgotten his helmet and about to head home, when Landlady Mel, bless her, appeared with a spare one she keeps on the premises. Now that’s what we call a cycling friendly pub.

Brief Encounter

Some three trains later, the keeper opened the crossing and we were underway once more, heading for Ugley Green and all points west.

Maurice had promised us a flat ride but, e-bike convert that he is, maybe he no longer notices the hills. We certainly did and, as the morning wore on and the mercury headed upwards of 25C, our once-tight peloton became strung out over a mile or more. While some of us like it hot, others, most notably Simon, aren’t so keen and, by the time we pulled in for refreshment at Braughing, he was looking distinctly pink.

Simon wishing he’d brought his bathing costume

It was in Braughing that Maurice had arranged an out-of-hours visit to The Golden Fleece. Mid-way round and run by our good pals, Pete and Jess, where better to stop off and take on some much needed water, coffee and biscuits.

Cooling down at Braughing

Back on the bikes Maurice took the return leg at quite a lick, having promised Mel he would get us back in good time for lunch, so we were grateful when Henham and the The Cock finally hove into view. Sitting in the garden, we enjoyed a restorative pint while Mel’s team served up an excellent lunch.

Lunch at The Cock

For the record, our peloton comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Simon and Victor.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things, Jess and Peter for opening up The Fleece, and Mel for her hospitality (and helmet) at The Cock.

31 miles anticlockwise: Henham, Elsenham, Ugley Green, Little Hadham, Standon, Puckeridge, Braughing, Furneux Pelham, Stocking Pelham, Rickling, Henham

And finally, we wish our pal Lawrence, currently laid up in St George’s Hospital, a speedy recovery from his illness. We hope to see him back in the saddle soon.

Our very own St Lawrence; get well soon

Brian

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Braughing

Sunny Delight

Thirteen Windmillers, a veritable baker’s dozen, followed Maurice out of Braughing towards Puckeridge. Born and bred in these ‘ere parts, Maurice needs no map, knowing as he does every nook, cranny, lane and hedgerow, not to mention public house, within a 30 mile radius.

We were off on a 33 mile tour of North East Herts. Twas a lovely morning, and a goodly turnout to boot; following Maurice were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Nigel, Roger, Simon and Victor.

The highlight of this particular route is the delightful five mile section along the riverside, running from Hertford, through Ware and on to Stanstead Abbotts. And where better to pull in for refreshment than Ware Café, where we enjoyed coffee and cake in the garden.

An aerial shot taken by Graham
A ground level shot taken by Brian
And a flowery shot taken by Hazel

Setting off on the return leg, we headed for Hunsdon, Perry Green and thence Braughing where, pulling into the Golden Fleece, we were delighted to be joined by Suzanne who had pedalled all the way from Abington.

Our thanks as ever go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things; Simon who got stiffed with the rather large bill for refreshments at Ware; plus Charles, Graham and Hazel for the many photographs which you can find here in the club album.

33 miles anticlockwise
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Braughing

Safe seats

It was polling day and the Windmillers were exercising their democratic right to roam North East Hertfordshire. Our safe seats were Maurice, Andrew, Suzanne, Deborah, Tom, Roger, Brian, Graham, Simon, Howard, Charles, Alan, Victor, Rod and Lawrence.

Maurice forms a majority

Maurice set the pace, leading a slim majority out of Braughing towards Puckeridge, followed five minutes later by Andrew’s coalition of Scots, Irish and independent hopefuls.

Andrew’s working coalition

The constituency of North East Hertfordshire has an electorate of some 76,000 – but thankfully only a small proportion of them were out driving; we enjoyed quiet roads, unhindered by traffic.

Stopping for refreshments at Church Farm, Ardeley, our two parties caught up and, resisting the urge to score cheap political points, we compared manifestos over coffee and cake.

Simon, Victor, Graham and Suzanne at Ardeley

Back on the bikes we headed for Haultwick (according to Roger it’s pronounced ‘Artic’) and Cromer, where we paused for the obligatory Windmillers-by-the-Windmill photograph. Then it was on to Sandon, Buntingford and Westmill before returning to Braughing.

Howard, Alan, Lawrence and Tom – wrapped up at the Golden Fleece

Arriving in the garden of the Golden Fleece, Peter and Jess gave us shelter from the elements and served up an excellent lunch, made all the more special by Andrew buying the beers. Happy Birthday, Andrew, and lang may yer lum reek!

How old, Andrew? Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey – don’t ask!

Our thanks go to the Whips’ Office – Maurice and Andrew. Also Charles and Simon for the photographs – and Peter & Jess for taking such good care of us at the Fleece.

28 miles anticlockwise
Eggstraordinary levels of rural crime around Buntingford

Brian (Returning Officer)

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Braughing

Fashionably Late

Brian should know better than to just blindly follow Maurice’s GPX routes. He should know by now these provide general guidance as to direction rather than turn-by-turn instruction. Just because said route directs you off-road, through a wood, up a grassy bank, over several stiles and across a paddock full of frisky horses – doesn’t mean you should follow it unquestioningly. Alas, that is just what Brian did – as did all the other mugs who followed him.

“Where the hell are we?” “Just pass me the bike, please, Martin”
This way!
Andrew advises Roger on the best way to corral frisky horses

The upshot was that the eight poor devils following in Brian’s wake arrived back at the pub nearly an hour after Maurice and his seven wise men – causing some consternation as rumour had it Birthday Boy Rod would be buying the beers. We rolled up as Maurice’s group, having wisely stuck to the road, had finished their lunch and were contemplating a second pint.

Some seventeen Windmillers had set out several hours earlier from The Golden Fleece at Braughing for a thirty-odd mile circuit of East Herts and the Lee Valley. This being Maurice’s home turf, he had included some particularly lovely lanes and riverside paths, and highlights along the way included the view over the bird reserve at Amwell, the gazebos overlooking the River Lee at Ware, and a stopover in Ware itself for some excellent coffee and cake.

Maurice’s group at Amwell – closely followed by . . .
. . . Brian’s group at Amwell

Viewed across the river in the bright April sunshine, the gazebos, some dating back to the 18th century, were built by innkeepers and other high street traders as havens of peace and quiet away from the noise and bustle of the town. In the 1830s there were some 25 along the riverside but, by 1980, only ten remained.

The gazebos at Ware

Back at The Fleece, we raised a glass to Rod and sang him a boisterous Happy Birthday.

For the record, the turnout was: Rod, Maurice, Andrew, Lawrence, Mike, Howard, Graham, Alan, Ken, Charles, Simon, Roger, Deborah, Martin, Suzanne, Tom and Brian.

Nigel had hoped to join us but pulled out at the last minute citing a problem with his boat. Whether it was shipwreck, mutiny or a Suez Canal mishap, we don’t know – but we wish him well and look forward to catching up with him again soon.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising things – also to Pete and Jess at The Fleece who served up a splendid lunch.

And thanks for the beers, Rod. Top chap!

Birthday Boy Rod contemplates his bar bill – while Maurice is all smiles
34 miles clockwise from Braughing

Brian

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Braughing

Free ranging half dozens

Would you rather be lost with Maurice or lost with Andrew? That was the tricky decision faced by a dozen Windmillers as we set off from the Golden Fleece on Thursday morning. But the question was academic as Andrew, brooking no dissent, picked two teams of six. We were off! And, in fairness, our worries were groundless; both leaders knew the route very well and neither got us lost.

The A Team: Brian, Rod, Geoff, Andrew, Alan and (behind the camera) Martin
The B Team: Howard, Maurice, Victor, Roger, Simon and (behind the camera) Graham

We had been warned there would be no stopping at a café so, having brought our own refreshments, we found a pleasant spot to sip coffee and munch biscuits in the September sunshine.

The A Team doing a socially distanced Ring a Ring ‘o Roses
Hungry looks from Victor and Howard

Now we all know Martin likes gadgets – more the steampunk kind than electronic – and so, chancing on this fearsome piece of kit in someone’s front garden, he dismounted and took a snap . . .

Allen Scythe

It’s an Allen Scythe – a petrol powered lawn mower to you and me – guaranteed to transform rough pasture into a passable domestic lawn. These were made from 1935 until 1973 and although many are still in regular use they can be dangerous; the clutch system only disengages the wheel drive from the engine, leaving the blades turning. Health and Safety be damned, eh?

Both teams returned safely to the Fleece and enjoyed an excellent lunch served up by Landlord Peter.

31 miles anti-clockwise from Braughing

Thanks as ever to our team leaders, Maurice and Andrew. These are difficult times to plan outings but, week in – week out, you rise to the challenge and get us all organised. It is much appreciated.

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Braughing

23 July 2020: Simon’s kit bike

Thursday morning saw the Windmillers gathering at the Golden Fleece, unloading their bicycles, strapping on helmets and applying liberal doses of sun tan lotion, while Landlady Jess stood by to take our orders for lunch.

Come 09:15, we were off, in two socially distanced groups, one led by Maurice, the other by Andrew, heading south towards Puckeridge. Alas, Simon, in his haste to leave the house, had grabbed the nearest bike to hand and only now – some two miles into the ride – realised his saddle was uncomfortably high. Pulling over to make adjustments, he enquired whether anyone had a spanner. Delving into saddle bags, we mustered an impressive collection of multitools and hex keys – but nobody had what Simon actually needed, which was a good old British Standard Whitworth half inch spanner. Nothing for it, Simon, but to sit tall in the saddle and remember to always dismount alongside a high kerb.

And that wasn’t the end of his travails. Along the route, we got quite used to dodging various bits that fell off Simon’s machine; a broken reflector here, a detached derailleur cable there, and from time to time the rear peloton caught up with the front peloton providing ample opportunity to return the various components to their rightful owner.

And what a lovely route it was, taking in Barwick, Whempstead, Benington, Walkern and Ardeley – where we pulled in for refreshments at Church Farm. It is a sign of these COVID times that most establishments take an inordinately long time to serve a dozen or so Windmillers. There is usually only one person allowed behind the counter to take our orders, make the coffee, serve cake, take payment, etc. But hey, at our time of life, what’s the hurry?

Church Farm comes up trumps, however, for lending obscure tools to distressed cyclists; a friendly mechanic providing Simon with a half inch Whitworth spanner. Top chap!

Back on the bikes, we made the return leg – via Wood End, Haultwick, Great Munden and the delightfully named village of Nasty – to Braughing and the Golden Fleece where our hosts, Peter and Jess, served up an excellent lunch and Howard, this week’s birthday boy, bought the beers.

Happy birthday, Howard!

A big thank you – as ever – to Maurice and Andrew for organising another superb outing. And well done, Simon, for managing twenty something – fairly hilly – miles using just two gears.

30 miles clockwise from Braughing

Brian