At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month – we will remember them. As did the Windmillers on their Thursday outing, pulling over in a quiet place to honour the service men and women who gave their lives – and to reflect on the freedoms we take for granted today.
Having set off some two hours earlier from The Chestnut Tree at West Wratting, we were mid-way round a 32 mile circuit, looping south and west of Haverhill as far as Cornish Hall End before turning north for the return leg via Baythorne End.
It was here that we pulled in for coffee and cake at Tarka’s Café, all except Deborah who, having spotted the adjacent antiques and retro-tat emporium, sniffed a shopping opportunity. A vintage, if not visibly distressed, iron table took her fancy and, had friends not summoned her back to the café for refreshment, she would have bought the thing and lashed it to her bike.
Crisis averted and caffeine levels restored, we remounted and made light work of the return leg to West Wratting, where back at the pub, we were delighted to see Ken and Martin join us for lunch.
For the record, the turnout was fourteen Windmillers: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Maurice, Ric, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Suzanne.
Our thanks go to Maurice for planning yet another delightful route – and to Andrew, of course, for getting everyone organised.
Another fine Thursday morning saw Maurice’s gang – Jeremy, Ken, Rod, Chris, Brian and Charles – setting off from The Plough at Rede, followed some ten minutes later by Andrew’s gang – Alan, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Mike, Roger and Simon.
As ever, Charles was on top form, barking random greetings at startled passers by: “Top of the morning to you”, “Hello dear,” and “Nice dog!”
Maurice had planned our refreshment stop at the Guildhall tearoom in Lavenham, but Andrew’s peloton had other ideas. A chance discovery led them to Cafe Como in Brent Eleigh where they reported on the excellence of both coffee and cake. We must all return there some day soon.
At 37 miles, this outing was a little longer than usual – and a hilly one too – so it was with relief that we arrived back in Rede, tumbling into The Plough for a very welcome beer and a slap up lunch.
Our thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things – also Graham, Charles, Simon and Brian for the photographs; you can find more here in the club photo album.
Thursday morning saw a goodly turnout of sixteen Windmillers set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a 30-odd mile tour of West Suffolk. Deceived by the forecast of a dry day, some were regretting leaving their waterproofs at home as they headed out into the persistent drizzle.
And it stayed wet almost as far as our mid-way coffee stop at the Fox & Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead; Landlady Kate once again kindly opening up early just for us.
Happily, this was an outing where nobody got stung or otherwise discombobulated – and Andrew managed to hang on to his wallet for the duration. It was good to see Mike back in the saddle looking fit as a fiddle. And we were particularly pleased to see Lawrence join us for lunch following his unscheduled sleepover in London.
For the record our intrepid sixteen were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon, Tom and Victor
Thanks are due, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for getting us all organised and Charles for the photographs. Rachel and Peter too for taking such good care of us at The Chestnut Tree.
Fourteen Windmillers – Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Ken, Maurice, Rod, Simon, Suzanne and Tom – set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a thirty-odd mile tour of west Suffolk.
It all went tickety boo; no punctures, no involuntary dismounts, and nobody choked on their lunch, despite Simon doing a funny dance routine.
Mid-way, Maurice had arranged a coffee stop at The Fox & Hounds, Steeple Bumpstead.
Safely back at West Wratting, we enjoyed a super lunch in the garden, courtesy of landlords Rachel and Peter, and we raised a glass to Lawrence wishing him a speedy recovery from his illness.
Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for planning it all and organising things.
When cycling with Martin we recommend you bring a good book, or maybe the Times crossword, or even Travel Scrabble – anything to while away the hour it can take to mend one of his punctures. Being such a nice chap, everybody wants to help and for each additional helper you can add another 10 minutes. So Martin plus five helpers equals a one hour puncture repair.
Then there’s the collateral damage; this week’s included three new inner tubes (two exploded), one bicycle pump (also exploded), two CO2 cylinders (fully discharged), not to mention minor injuries (Roger’s finger, bent but not quite broken).
That aside, we enjoyed a delightful ride, Martin leading Geoff, Roger, Charles, Victor and Brian around a 30-odd mile loop from the Packhorse, Moulton to Maglia Rosso and back. Lunch – a little later than usual – was excellent and over a beer or two we swapped stories of Martin’s memorable mendings; the most notable of which include the one outside the Blackwall Tunnel and the one at the vicarage in Comberton. Check them out.
Of Graham’s group, Simon reports . . .
Bike rides are a bit like life. First comes the easy bit when you glide along thinking it’s all going well. What you haven’t noticed of course is that the wind has been behind you.
Out we went through Upper Green and Little Saxham to the bike shop and café at Hawstead Green – Simon, Mike, Deborah and Jenni – ably shepherded by Graham. The weather, in particular the westerly tail wind, was kind to us, apart from a brief hailstorm that forced us to shelter for a few minutes under a tree.
Funny how you don’t notice the wind until you turn and it is blowing in your face. Just like that stage of life when you are building a career and raising a family, you have to keep going. We pedalled on, legs aching, struggling to make headway, the scenery all a bit of a blur; though I do remember there were some busy roads and intimidating drivers to keep us on our toes.
Then came our mid-life crisis where everyone had to rally round with the sole objective of getting back to the pub on-time. On this occasion Deborah had a puncture after we had ridden past some seasonal hedge cutting.
The group came together nicely. We had all the necessary kit but not always the clearest of ideas of how to use it. Still we muddled through and were soon on our way. The descent into Moulton came as a relief and, arriving back at the Pack Horse, we enjoyed a well earned beer.
By next Thursday we may even have the energy to do it all again, with the prospect of more stories, more laughs and finishing with another good lunch and a beer. So here’s to next Thursday. The weather can’t be that bad, can it?
Maurice’s Group . . .
. . . comprising Maurice himself, plus Howard, Ken, Rod, and Alan, had a memorable start, Maurice arriving as he did with a flat car tyre. Rumour has it he has never changed a wheel; “I have people who do that,” he explained. In no time, the Windmillers had his car jacked and the wheel changed in a marginally sub-Formula 1 time. We only hope Martin was watching and learning.
Needless to say, we had all enjoyed a great day out and owe a special thanks to Maurice – for selecting a fine route, Andrew – for getting us organised, and of course, Martin, Graham and Maurice (again) for leading us all safely around the circuit. Thanks, guys.
We like the Fox & Hounds at Steeple Bumpstead, not least because Landlady Kate provides coffee and biscuits while we wait for Deborah, who generally arrives just as we are draining our cups.
Refreshed and ready to go, twelve Windmillers attempt to form two equal sized pelotons in conformance with government guidelines*. Only it never quite works out, Maurice heading out with eight riders while Brian musters just four. Maybe some can’t count? Maybe – quite understandably – others fear getting lost with Brian? Or maybe it’s just our Keystone Cops-like inability to get organised. Who knows.
Whatever the reason, all twelve somehow found their way to Clare where we enjoyed some excellent coffee and cake at Platform One, the café in the long-disused railway station.
From Clare we made short work of the return trip to Steeple Bumpstead where Landlady Kate served up a hearty lunch washed down with a restorative ale.
For the record, this week’s riders were: Maurice, Howard, Roger, Deborah, Jenni, Alan, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Charles, Lawrence and Brian – and Ken joined us for lunch.
Thanks, Maurice, for organising another terrific outing.
*As of Thursday, 27 August 2020, Cycling UK’s guidance is that groups of up to fifteen can ride provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Read more.
Socially distanced cycling, eh? Who’d have thought? Whereas our peloton used to be upwards of a dozen strong – a veritable rolling roadblock – we now only venture out in groups of six or less, appropriately spaced. This week it was Maurice leading the first group and Brian the second. Trouble was, Brian didn’t really know the route, relying instead on tail-enders Graham and Rod to shout directions from the rear.
So it was that Maurice, followed by Roger, Ken, Alan and Chris set off from The Rushbrooke Arms, Sicklesmere, heading for Gedding – followed ten minutes later by Brian, Victor, Deborah, Mike, Graham and Rod – Brian making sure he kept within earshot of Graham and Rod.
Sunshine and the beautiful Suffolk countryside ensured a very pleasant outbound ride to Lavenham, where we pulled in for refreshments at The Swan. Most ordered coffee and teacakes – but Graham, who had already cycled the extra 35 miles from home – was desperate to wet his whistle with a pint. Coffee and teacakes were served aplenty but, despite increasingly desperate reminders to the staff, the beer did not materialise and poor old Graham took the saddle just as thirsty as when he arrived.
Returning to Sicklesmere via Bridge Street, Shimpling and Hawstead, we enjoyed an alfresco lunch at the The Rushbrooke Arms where, thankfully, Graham managed to down a few restorative pints ahead of his 35 mile return home, neighbour Mike joining him for the ride.
Thanks, Maurice, for planning the route and leading the way on such a delightful outing.
After such an eventful ride it was a relief to get back to the cars and relax with a picnic.
The day had started badly for Rod when the e-part of his e-bike failed, rendering it a p-bike (go figure). Even with the battery removed, pedalling an electric bike can be challenging, they are anything but lightweight. Rod had a tough day’s riding ahead.
Then there was Andrew’s chain. Half way into the ride and pulling up for a comfort break, he noticed a semi-detached link; clearly, an accident waiting to happen. There was nothing for it but to up-end the bike and effect a repair. His usual bike mechanic, Tom Robinson, being unavailable, it fell to Andrew to do his own dirty work; and his was a truly filthy chain, mired in the accumulated muck of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Normandy and Brittany.
With assistance from Maurice, tools from Brian and much effing and jeffing from Andrew himself, the chain was eventually made whole again, albeit a little shorter than before.
Meanwhile the rest of us used the time to take on water, munch snacks and generally loll about. Charles took great interest in a passing canine, evidently some sort of rare breed, engaging the lady owner in small talk. She seemed quite taken with his stripey hose.
A mere 45 minutes or so later and we were underway once more. Strung out over half a mile, our peloton was steadily overtaken by an energetic female rider. Maurice on his e-bike was comfortably able to keep up with Carol (as we subsequently learned her name was) and struck up a conversation. Hearing we could do with a coffee, Carol very kindly led us to The Anchor, her local in Stoke-by-Nayland. Unfortunately the landlord refused to contemplate opening up half an hour early. Nonetheless, we thanked Carol, for her solicitude and, bidding her farewell, continued on to Kersey, surely one of the prettiest of Suffolk villages, where we were delighted to find The Bell open and welcoming.
Sod the coffee, let’s have a real drink – seemed to be the general feeling as we formed a socially distanced queue at the bar – and Rod, now looking distinctly red in the face, expressed strong approval. What’s more, having missed celebrating his birthday during lockdown, Charles insisted on buying the beers. Thank you, Charles, and a belated very happy birthday to you.
It would be nice to report that the rest of the outing passed uneventfully; but that wasn’t to be. We were on the last mile and approaching Long Melford when Andrew was overtaken dangerously by a Volvo estate; indeed, not just cut-up but yelled at by the driver. Catching up with the Volvo at a junction, strong opinions were exchanged on both sides before we all went our separate ways. If only that had been the end of it.
Arriving back at the cars and setting out our chairs, tables and picnic, we sat down to enjoy the fine prospect across Long Melford green. Rod, in particular, was very relieved to get back and set about his sandwiches with great gusto. Quite how he had managed to keep up with us over 34 miles, we will never know; but somehow he did. Well done, Rod, that was quite a workout.
Alas, the pleasant ambience of our picnic spot was disturbed when the Volvo driver reappeared, driving across the green and pulling up alongside us to complain about her car being scratched. Andrew, remaining impressively calm and businesslike, thought it best to de-escalate things by exchanging details. After all, this is what our club insurance with Cycling UK is for and – thankfully – the heat was taken out of the encounter. Well done, Andrew, for handling things in such a business-like manner.
For the record, the 34 miles was completed in two socially distanced groups: Maurice leading Brian, Ken, Chris, Simon and Graham, followed five minutes later by Andrew leading Lawrence, Charles and Rod.
Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising things and leading the two groups.