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Things are getting better

Monday 19th April 2021. Our second Monday starting from the Red Cow in Chrishall, with last week’s cold winds starting to ease. An excellent turnout which formed into two groups; Victor, Maurice, Deborah, Jenny, Suzanne and then Rod, Charles, Sandra, Andrew and myself (Simon). The route was as last week but in the reverse direction.

Nice dry weather, the hedges in masses of white blossom. No leaves on the trees, daffodils starting to go over and blue-bells appearing in sheltered spots. Very much nicer to be riding in groups with the prospect of a sociable drink at the end. Life was getting back to something like normal. £4 a shot for AstraZeneca, even £30 for Pfizer. Feels like a bargain.

Flags were at half-mast after the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. I was informed, by our military contingent, that most citizens had even hung their flags the right way up. Not something you can always rely on apparently,

they were just not at quite the right height.

The UK flag is formed from those of the English, Scottish and Irish. The Welsh representative had presumably nipped out for leek.

The English overlays the Scottish saltire. In the unlikely event that Scotland had won various of the battles, the flag would have looked rather different. The Irish cross was added later. The overlay is jigged a bit (the correct term is ‘counter-charged’) ensuring that a bit more of ‘Andrew’ is showing than Patrick in the all important top left area. Thus in the Union Flag, George takes precedence over Andrew, and Andrew over Patrick.

You idiots! Half-mast does not mean half way up the pole. Essex residents failed this test in significant numbers. So that members of this auspicious club do not make egregious errors, I include the correct protocol here.

In your citizenship test you may be asked the correct location of your flag, relative to the finial, during different periods of national commemoration. So as to avoid the dire consequence of having to live somewhere awful, like France, Switzerland, worst case scenario Belgium, please pay attention to the instructions here.

Once we escaped the distraction of miss-hung flags the ride settled down to the usual routine. Andrew’s bike failed after the first couple of miles. Schwalabe Marathons in tact, but the rest of the bike rebelling to such a degree he had to return home. Sandra took up the role of leader most effectively. Great to have her back with us.

We eventually caught up with Maurice’s group who had also had their troubles. Charles took the opportunity for some photos

Charles manages a nice in-ride snap
Welcome break for drink

Eventually we made it back to the Red Cow where Andrew had booked tables (three cheers to Andrew who looks after us all so well). John was already a pint or two in. Martin was even better informed about dinosaurs, having been on grandfathering duty.

As is the fine tradition in the club, beers were drunk and light refreshment taken in the cooling night air. Things were indeed getting better. ‘All will be well’ as we look forward to many rides yet. We thank Maurice and Andrew for their efforts.

The end of an era. ‘No point in complaining, better just crack on with it’.

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15 April. Glorious Suffolk ride. 35 miles.

How does Maurice do it? Yet again he comes up with a ride we haven’t done before, this time a glorious ride into deepest Suffolk using carefully researched farm tracks and lanes which produced quite a testing 35 miles, as can be seen from the elevation / gradient plot below, some hills approaching 10%.

Starting from The Fox & Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead, where Maurice had also arranged for coffee to be laid on at 9.00am, and riding in two groups, Maurice led the first group comprising Ken, Rod, Roger, Simon and Alan whilst Andrew, Howard, Brian, Deborah, Lawrence, Mike and Martin followed along about 10 minutes later. Geoff was due to set off too but unfortunately had left his battery behind at home and had to return to collect it, but caught up with the gang later on in Clare. (Don’t worry, Geoff, it happens to us all, having left my golf battery behind recently, with similar expletives expressed. Ed.)

After traversing the farm track successfully shortly after leaving Steeple Bumpstead and before reaching the A1307, a delightful lane led us through to the hamlet of Wixoe before emerging at Baythorne End, where group B stopped to admire a fine Georgian house with walls made from knapped flints, which must surely represent one of the finest houses of its type around, and definitely a labour of love.

Flint mansion at Baythorne End

The weather was perfect, the hedges were ablaze with blossom, leaves were emerging, cowslips were out, daffodils were having a last gasp whilst narcissi and tulips were taking over, the birds were singing, the pubs were open and Windmillers were again riding together in a group. What could be better? Up and down the hills we went passing more lovely Suffolk houses, cottages and churches including this fine looking example in the small hamlet of Fenstead End near Glemsford:

St. Mary’s Church, Fenstead End
Group B overlooking the River Glem, choosing not to go through the ford

After approx. 25 miles it was definitely time for a coffee stop and the café at the old railway station in Clare was our destination, which we had visited on previous occasions. Some queued patiently for coffee whilst others opted for their own refreshments but it was a pleasant place to relax and for both groups to meet up prior to the final leg back.

Group B ouside the old station at Clare
The railroad runs through the middle of the Grade 2 listed café
Clare Castle Country Park

Back at The Fox & Hounds a warm welcome was received from the landlady and her staff who looked after us well as we dined under cover in the courtyard garden. It was very good to be ending a ride in the traditional Windmill Club way.

Windmillers drinking and dining in style

Thanks again to Maurice for planning a superb route and to Andrew our organiser who, nevertheless, had to confess his cardinal sins to the Rev’d Holey Moley in the confessional behind Maurice in the above picture, before setting off on the ride.

Martin

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12 April. Pubs open. 22 miles.

A welcome bonus for the Windmill Club when lockdowns are eased is that changes tend to take place on Mondays, which gives us an extra reason to celebrate. This ride was no exception with the wonderful bonus of pubs opening again, albeit outside, with no requirement to eat a Scotch egg or any other substantial meal, plus the ability to ride in groups larger than six should we wish to do so. So, The Red Cow in Chrishall exploded into life once again with people flocking in for a celebratory drink in the fresh air, warm at first but freezing cold as the evening wore on. The overflow car park was jammed, some customers making a special effort by arriving in their vintage cars. The Duke of Edinburgh would have loved it.

Maurice’s promise of chips after the ride was perhaps another reason why so many Windmillers turned out, but concern was expressed that the ‘Pimp my Fish’ van was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it had been held up or found more lucrative business elsewhere? Perhaps it would be in place and frying away at the end of the ride? Speculation was rife.

It was great to have Sandra with us again after a long absence, showing off her smart new van full of familiar equipment for shearing Alpacas and mowing lawns. Likewise, it was great to have Simon O join us and so together with Andrew, Charles, Deborah, Jenni, Nick, Simon T, Lawrence, Alan, Jeremy and Martin, that made 13 Windmillers in all who set off in two groups at 4.30 pm to navigate the local lanes in near perfect conditions.

This is where we went:

Another England, Scotland and Wales ride
Group B from the left: Simon O, Sandra, Deborah, Andrew, Nick, Charles, Jeremy and Jenni

Alas, ‘Pimp my Fish’ was nowhere to be seen on our return but that didn’t stop Windmillers ordering chips galore from the pub’s kitchen, served with natty tubs of mayo and tomato sauce and washing them down with some fine ales and soft drinks. Andrew had told us of his success stripping down some grubby brass window handles by soaking them in tomato sauce, which put many off from ever touching the stuff again.

1958 Ausin-Healey 100/6 BN4. Lot 215 in Historics Auctioneers auction on 18 May 2011. Expected price £25,000 – £30,000. Sold for £22,000. Now owned by a Red Cow customer.

(Now why did I sell my 1953 Austin-Healey 100/4 in 1967 for just £170? Ok, only 3 of its 4 cylinders were working but even so…….Ed.)

Knowing the cold air was about to descend most Windmillers donned warm jackets and, in Deborah’s case, a very smelly horsey jacket (or so she claimed whilst socially distanced), but this didn’t stop some getting very cold indeed as stories began to unfold, one involving a dead granny in Calais.

Celebrating the easing of lockdown, Windmiller-style

We were promised ‘Pimp my Fish’ would be back again next week (their chips are worth waiting for) and so we look forward to a repeat of the ride. Thanks go as usual to Maurice for planning the route and to Andrew for organising us.

Martin

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1 April. Three counties ride. 30 miles.

There were no fools out on this ride, just 17 wise Windmillers relishing the re-introduction of the rule of 6 and enjoying a change of scenery in South Cambs, North Essex and West Suffolk. Bartlow was the starting point for 13 Windmillers and 4 chose to start in Steeple Bumpstead, both villages having fine pubs which we hope to take advantage of in the near future. Andrew had made arrangements for parking to take place in the Three Hills car park in Bartlow which was very convenient.

This is where we went:

Andrew, Geoff, Victor, Lawrence, Deborah and Jenni went clockwise from Bartlow, most of them sticking together like peas in a pod the whole way, whilst Charles, Ken, Suzanne and Martin went AC before being caught up by speedsters Graham and Mike in Steeple Bumpstead. Maurice, Rod, Alan and Roger went AC from Steeple Bumpstead, which explains why they never saw the AC group from Bartlow. Such are the logistics of CAC rides.

Cruising from County to County, crossing borders at frequent intervals, and soaking up the scenery is what makes a Windmill ride such as this a real pleasure, particularly after such a long period of lockdown when we have been unable to travel very far from base. It will be good to revisit familiar places in farther parts of Essex, Herts, Cambs, Norfolk and Suffolk in the coming weeks and to try out new routes too.

The half way point on a CAC ride for those starting from the same place is never one that can be predicted with any accuracy, but recently we seem to have found nice quiet spots such as the Wimpole ridge last week and, this week, a lane just outside Kedington, where Andrew can be seen above perching on a wall trying to make a phone call from his coffee flask.

Also perching on a wall, but rather wishing she hadn’t, was Jenni:

Jenni, captured by Graham (unintentionally we’re sure!)

Two groups of 6 Windmillers meeting up for a chat across the road did result in a bit of a traffic jam but luckily there were very few vehicles about – just a few stationary OpenReach vans. Martin took this opportunity to ask the men in question if their next job was to install fibre broadband in Ickleton, but the answer was no. They had never heard of the place.

Thoughts of coffee / refreshments started soon afterwards for the Bartlow AC crew who found a British Legion bench in Kedington to sit on and watch the passing traffic go by.

Martin, Ken and Suzanne having a coffee break in Kedington
Meanwhile, in Balsham, Howard looks as if he is having a serious meal of a Scotch Egg whilst a large slice of cake is seen next to Mike. No wonder they look so content.

In Little Thurlow there are some interesting properties. One is a thatched barn with what looks like a miniature bomber wedged in the thatch whilst the one-time grand building next door, a former school built in 1614, looks nearly derelict – a rare sight these days for such a historic property.

This distinctive brick building in Little Thurloe is The Olde School. It was established in 1614 by Sir Stephen Soame (at one time Lord Mayor of London) as a free school for the sons of local farmers who were to be taught English, Latin and Ciphering (that is, arithmetic) and then sent on if possible to Cambridge or Oxford. The ground floor, which was the schoolroom, is cunningly designed so that it was not possible to see out of the windows while sitting down! The garden has a wonderful display of aconites and snowdrops early in the year.
The aeroplane is a World War 2 thatched Short Stirling four engine heavy bomber. The first of the four engine heavies prior to the Lancaster and Halifax and the scourge of Nazi Germany. Its appearance on this barn roof in Little Thurlow is undoubtedly because of the nearby airfield at Wratting Common which flew the Stirling, along with its parent station at Stradishall (now HMP Highpoint). Many of the old war time buildings still remain at the site of the airfield including two large hangars and the local roads follow the course of the old runsways.

Cruising on towards Weston Colville and West Wratting, full of the joys of Spring, the Bartlow AC group enjoyed a final downhill, downwind very fast ride all the way back to the Three Hills, stopping only briefly to cross the busy A1307.

Thanks to Maurice for taking us farther afield on a lovely circuit, Andrew for his organisation and Charles, Graham and Suzanne for their photos, plus The Three Hills for the parking – we’ll see you soon.

Martin

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29 March. Summer arrives early. 22 miles.

It was only a week ago that Spring arrived but Summer came in hot pursuit and encouraged some Windmillers to bare their limbs on this ride and enjoy the sunshine whilst doing a repeat of last week’s ride around the lanes. Those taking part fully clothed were Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Nick, Suzanne and Graham, whilst those showing some their white bits were Deborah, Jenni, Simon, Alan, Charles and Martin. Correction: Rod and Graham claim they were baring their white bits too.

This was a day to celebrate not only the warm weather but also the first easing of lockdown since it was last imposed – Christmas was it? Whenever it was, it seems ages ago but hopefully there is now light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the train coming in the opposite direction. Rod had also taken advantage of golf courses being open again before coming out on the ride – very impressive given the ups and downs of Royston golf course. Well done Rod.

The rule of 6 was back in action too which enabled members to ride together like old times after meeting up and enjoy good conversation, much of which centred on the fish and chip van which was parked in the car park of The Red Cow in Chrishall and where Deborah, Jenni, Simon, Suzanne and Martin ended up to scoff some chips, washed down with a fine Italian white wine. The extra hour of daylight too was a great bonus. So all in all things are looking up!

Here are some of the meetings en route:

Suzanne, Jenni, Alan, Deborah and Andrew enjoying the afternoon sun and the longer day
Deborah spotted these cute Alpacas, waiting patiently perhaps for Sandra to arrive with her scissors. Sandra might use a different four letter word to describe them when they get angry.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride and to Charles for hosting the charity box. Thanks also to Charles and Deborah for some of the photos.

Martin

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25 March. Record ride day. 32 miles.

20 Windmillers! Phew, that’s a lot out all at once, a club record, but all perfectly legit thanks to our CAC system. Take a bow Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Deborah, Simon, Victor, Tom, Brian, Chris, Alan, Ken, Jeremy, Roger, Colin, Charles, Graham, Mike, Geoff and Martin. It would have been nice to have a group photo in front of Wimpole Hall but this will have to wait for normal times to return.

The ride was a repeat of last week’s circuit to Wimpole Hall, which proved to be about half way for most people resulting in many meetings on the multi-use trail above the Hall. The conditions were drier than last week and the views from the ridge towards Elmdon in the east and Sandon in the West were clearer.

Thriplow was still looking splendid as Deborah, Ken and Martin met up to start a clockwise route, joining up with Simon in Fowlmere to deposit fivers in the charity box, hosted once again by Lawrence. Thanks Lawrence! And thanks to Ken’s good sense of direction we found our way to Melbourn and then through Meldreth, Bassingbourn and quiet lanes towards Croydon before entering the gates of the Wimpole estate at the Arrington End, where it was considerably less muddy than last week.

The climb from the Arrington end is shorter but steeper than at the Hall end and who should we meet as we puffed and panted our way up the final slope but Maurice with a broad smile on his face. There was no stopping, just a gasped ‘Morning Maurice’ as we passed by, except for Ken who happily chose to dismount and have a chat whilst walking up.

‘Morning Maurice, morning Geoff’

Simon then led the way across the parkland towards a building that we had thought last week might have been an ice house. But, on getting closer, doubts began to be expressed as the building had a corrugated roof, yet it did appear to be buried around the base and surrounded by a clump of trees. Subsequent research indicates that there was indeed an ice house in the same vicinity, situated on Mill Mound, but it no longer exists.

Ice maiden Deborah and Jack Frost Simon outside what they hoped would be an ice house on the Wimpole Estate. The exact purpose of the building remains a mystery.

And then the meetings began, in quick succession:

Ken admiring the view towards Sandon from a coffee stop on the Wimpole ridge

The return leg for the clockwise crew who by this time had Andrew too amongst them, socially distanced of course, took us via Orwell and Barrington when conversation turned again to coffee and sausage rolls which meant only one thing – a stop at The Moringa Tree in Haslingfield, where there was a large gathering of other cyclists outside. Once again the coffee was excellent and the sausage rolls were to die for.

The view of All Saints’ Church, Haslingfield, from The Moringa Tree Café

Meanwhile, those gluttons for distance and coffee, Graham and Mike, were enjoying their coffee at the Hill View Farm Shop in Kneesworth and taking photos of local residents:

The only other wild life spotted it seems were these ‘wild’ Angora goats seen in Fowlmere by Jeremy:

Angora goats clearly have no table manners

Here’s a reminder of the route we took:

And so ended a perfect ride. Thanks to all for making it a record turnout and special thanks of course to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to all the photographers.

Martin

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22 March. All the twos ride – second day of Spring 22 miles

A beautiful Spring day had 13 Windmillers cruising around the lanes – Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Charles, Victor, Lawrence, Simon, Deborah, Suzanne, Alan, Nick, Graham and Martin – on a pleasant circuit devised by our maestro Maurice.

Charles hosted the charity box once again – thanks Charles. And thanks again to energy restorer Victor who dished out Cadbury’s Roses chocolates to anyone in need – a habit which we hope he will continue……

Victor with a mouthful of Cadbury’s Roses at Shaftenhoe End
Windmill girl Suzanne at Great Chishill. Simon would approve the rusty metal.

Nick was met on his clockwise route after Nuthampstead with a report that Maurice was not far ahead and, sure enough, we met him chatting to Bridget Tarrington outside her house, who had been busy working on her lovely garden. Bridget said she was getting walking-fit for a tour of the Yorkshire Dales in June which Ken Worthing and John Bagrie have organised – 6 days of walking and at least 12 pubs to be visited en route.

Maurice, Bridget and Suzanne outside Bridget’s house in Nuthampstead

From Nuthampstead the AC route went via Anstey, where we gave Keith a shout, but there were no red kites to be seen in the meadow behind The Blind Fiddler, where 10 were seen on a ride last year. But we did see another rare species in the guise of Windmillers Rod and Lawrence:

Lawrence and Rod near Anstey, full of the joys of Spring

Not long afterwards, Andrew and Simon were encountered near the Brent Pelham Royal Observer Corps cold war nuclear bunker, constructed in 1961, of which there were many dotted around Hertfordshire as can be seen here: https://www.subbrit.org.uk/locations/hertfordshire/ .

The entrance to the Brent Pelham bunker

This is how one commentator described the bunker in 1998:

‘In a square compound on the West side of a field boundary 75 yards North of a sharp bend in an un-named minor road.

OPEN All surface features remain intact. the hatch is open. Internally some of the furniture in non-standard including an office desk and table. Other artefacts remaining include the cupboard, some electrical items, wiring and kitchen utensils (1998). When visited in May 2007 externally there was little change but internally the post has been damaged by vandals.

An Orlit B in good condition stands against the field boundary outside the compound. There is a bed inside.

Opened in 1961 and closed in 1991.’

P9190114_zps04917310.jpg

The Orlit B above is a look out post which can still be climbed but it is empty inside. If you wish to venture down the ladder into the bunker, this is what you might see: https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/threads/roc-post-brent-pelham-nov-2015.32110/ . Best of luck!

Thanks again to Maurice and Andrew for organising this, our first Spring ride, of 2021.

Martin

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Wimpole improvements, a high-up meeting and tatty harvesters.

This Thursday the 18th March was a route through some of our favourite villages. There was a distinct feel that we are now nearing the end of the pandemic. Still adhering to the rules (in outline) we set off AC and DC from our chosen starting points, several people opting to ride as a two for a bit of company.

Route with quite extensive Wimpole section including a steep climb.

A brilliant turn-out considering how cold it was including: Andrew, Martin, Ken, Lawrence, Simon, Maurice, Charles, Roger, Rod, Geoff, Alan, Howard, Graham, Brian, Mike, Deborah and Jenni.

It’s been a year since lock-downs started. Once again, the Thriplow Daffodil Festival has been a casualty. Now I know what Wordsworth meant as, from under my own cloud, the daffodils started to raise my spirits.

Daf’s are out. Spring is here.

In the beginning there were ….
What are those odd yellow things? Mummy. Just cyclists, don’t worry they will be gone soon.

Lock-down encourages indulging oneself in some way and I am sure some of these indulgencies could be destructive.  Drugs, drink, gambling perhaps? No, I think I will save those for the fourth wave. Cake? Now you are talking. For the most part club members demonstrated their disciplined natures by cycling past; El Cafecito Long lane, Fowlmere, Royston, SG8 7TG and the Moringa tree 11A Church Street, Haslingfield CB23 1JE.

I found that one hard.

Hot Numbers Roastery at Wrights Mowers Dunsbridge Turnpike, Shepreth SG8 6RB. Too far out of the way. The Old Rectory at Wimpole Estate Arrington SG8 0BW. Too slow, I could be dead of hypoglycaemia before getting any cake.

I’m told, in fact I know, there are several other cafes preying on the weakness of weary cyclists. I thought we might set up a cake-Samaritans helpline, in case we have members who need further help. All in the strictest confidence of course.

The clockwise group were encountered almost exactly halfway round. I still can’t believe how well Martin’s plan for lock-down rides has worked, and kept the club going in difficult times.

Clockwise members at Wimpole. They avoided the hill and new trail we note.

We finished up having an impromptu cycling club get together at the top of the hill, on the new multipurpose trail which now goes around the grounds of Wimpole. The whole estate has had an amazing amount of work done on it during this last year. Martin and Penny had done useful reconnaissance the previous day so we were able to enjoy it.

Meeting at the top of the hill.
Andrew multi-tasking on a very nice rustic seat. The hand-made nails used were much admired.
Great views of surrounding villages.

Scientists have studied why people like to climb hills and admire the view. The practice is popular round the world and through the ages. Apparently, people find it makes them feel secure. You can see enemies coming from miles off and prepare a defence they say. I suppose they never thought that the person next to you might have some deadly disease. Still, mostly they haven’t, they just want your cake, so you may need to defend that.

The new trail includes a variety of habitats including lovely open views, the lake, ice-house and gentle curves cutting through woods. It’s been carefully planned and will be beautiful as it settles down through the summer.

Don’t think old logs, think habitat. Insects, food for birds. Also much less hard work. Just leave stuff alone. See Bertrand Russell essay ‘In praise of idleness’

Why remove a stump when it can look like that? Art that is.
Why does that moss stop so suddenly? Answer me that.

At the start of Wimpole’s trail, we came across a barn of ‘old’ farm machinery ready for heritage demonstrations of yester-year’s farming technologies. Andrew denied that the machines were in fact old, declaring, “I used one of those at school. It’s a ‘tatty harvester’ just like the one at my school’s farming club”.

Wimpole’s ‘tatty harvester’

Restored harvester with hanging wooden poles on the left, which protect from flying rocks and potatoes. (only for whimps)

As the machine is pulled forwards the flail at the back rotates. Heavy wires penetrate the ground to a depth of several inches, gouge through the soil and flick the potatoes out into the light.

I’m told that this type of machine, when used by schoolboys, is very safe. That is, safe to assume that if a boy isn’t paying attention to the lesson, the machine will pick them up and flick them over the nearest hedge. I’ve done a little teaching and can certainly appreciate how much this machine would appeal to schoolmasters.

The video is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_H1kJc-xXI you can start watching from 2 minutes if tractors aren’t your thing.

We have always been very pleased to have Andrew here with us in the club, but now we know that we are also very lucky.

Nice route. Thanks to Maurice, Andrew for organising, Lawrence for hosting, Graham for gpx skills and several club members for coffee shop recommendations. All together now; ‘are we there yet, I’m so bored’.

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15 March. Colinas bastardos, again. 21 miles.

Spring was definitely in the air on this pleasant afternoon but with fewer Windmillers out for a ride than usual. Could it be because this was a repeat of last week’s ‘colinas bastardos’ ride which Maurice put us through, illustrated above, leaving all but the e-bike brigade puffing and panting up the hills, or was it the Astra Zeneca jab that has been causing side affects? Sadly, Deborah suffered a bit from the AZ which meant she had to pull out (hopefully better now) and Alan was due to be jabbed, the reports of which resulted in a large amount of anecdotal data being supplied by Windmillers to vaccinator, and occasional rider, Tim. We hope to see him back when he has finished jabbing. Several Windmillers reported AZ side effects but these seem to last only a few days at worst, and no blood clots so far.

Besides Maurice, the others taking part in the repeat of last week’s roller coaster ride were Andrew, Lawrence, Charles, Victor, Graham, Suzanne and Martin. Andrew reported a head wind on the bastardo from the B1039 to Littlebury Green and so he was relieved to stop and have a chat about Schwalbe Marathons whilst getting his breath back.

Ace salesman Andrew doing his Schwalbe Marathon spiel
Victor and Andrew full of the joys of spring

Was it hi-viz Maurice or hi-viz Charles speeding towards us at one stage? And then we noticed the smart socks which could only mean one thing – the sartorially elegant Charles of course astride his new Gazelle:

Charles looking the part

And then Lawrence hoved into view, looking equally elegant. What a smart bunch we all are, setting standards for other bike clubs to emulate! Thank God we don’t wear a standard uniform.

Lawrence looking coordinated

Graham caught up with Martin and Suzanne outside this familiar hedge and helped to settle a discussion about the correct pronunciation of topiary, which Martin had got very wrong:

Topiary pronounced toepieary or toepiary – definitely the latter! (Thanks to Graham and Suzanne for putting me right. Ed.)

And next door, this familiar house with its magnificent garden which can just be seen over the hedge by standing up on the pedals was looking great in the afternoon sun. The charming owner came out from her kitchen and said that the house dated from 1520 with a later addition on the north side.

Valence Manor, Sheepcote Green – this classic house has unusual chimneys with diagonal shafts

Graham had already clocked up a huge number of km before joining the ride at Littlebury, having been in the Brinkley area earlier in the day, and so was clearly still dead set on beating his 2020 distance. Not wishing to cheat, unlike Martin, Suzanne and Andrew who chose not to complete the course last week due to inclement weather, Graham continued on towards Littlebury at Strethall Cross Roads instead of taking the easier option back to Ickleton. And storming up the last Colina Bastardo, the steepest of them all, in the way he did was most impressive. Well done Graham.

Thanks go as usual to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride and to Charles for hosting a new mini charity box, last week’s maxi box apparently getting a bit waterlogged and soggy.

Martin

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4 March. I-Spy with my little eye something beginning with P. 26 miles.

Puncture? Prospect of Whitby? Pin Mill? Performance enhancer? (Just a few examples of Ps found on recent WhatsApp messages). No, none of these. The clue is in the above photo – Pond of course! And not just one, either – there were 10 spied between Debden Green and Henham but only one had ducks in evidence. Does anyone know why there are so many ponds on this stretch of road?

There was some debate as to whether this ride should take place due to the weather forecast but in the event 16 Windmillers decided to brave it – Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Jenni, Simon, Geoff, Graham, Mike, Ken, Lawrence, Suzanne, Howard, Roger, Alan, Charles and Martin – and raised £90 in the process. Most didn’t get too wet but all must have got cold and so the café at Elsenham level crossing did a roaring trade, not to mention a café in Stansted Mountfichet that also welcomed a few.

The Elsenham café was a friendly place and well worth a repeat visit, although conversations were frequently curtailed as trains thundered through. The level crossing must surely be one of the last to use manually controlled gates (known as a female crossing in India) and the operator had his work cut out constantly opening and closing them.

Roger teamed up with Ken, Suzanne and Martin to ride as two pairs from Elsenham to Manuden where he peeled off back to base in Furneux Pelham. Meanwhile Simon headed anticlockwise from Elsenham and was seen again just as he was finishing in Littlebury Green.

Graham and Mike were not encountered en route, nor Alan or Lawrence, but Mike clearly had a puncture to contend with at some stage:

Mike hard at work mending a rear wheel puncture.
Rickling Church waiting patiently for some warmer weather, with only 4 daffodils in evidence so far.

Officially 26 miles, the actual distance covered by those not living in Saffron Walden or Wendens Ambo would have been considerably more, and so well done in particular to Suzanne who started in Abington and rode to Saffron Walden via Hadstock, clocking up closer to 50 miles in total.

Thanks once again to Maurice for planning the ride, Andrew for organising us and hosting the charity box and to photographers Simon and Graham.

Martin

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22 February. The Bull at Lower Langley? 20 miles

Graham’s photo of a happy bull munching on Spring grass brought back equally happy memories of long summer evenings sitting outside The Bull at Lower Langley having a pint. Passing it on this ride whilst it was locked up and empty reinforced these feelings but hopefully, it won’t be long now before we can feel bullish once again.

There were 14 Windmillers taking part on this ride around familiar lanes, the others being Maurice, Andrew, Lindsey, Alan, Rod, Deborah (who set off early), Charles, Suzanne, Lawrence, Brian, Jeremy, Geoff and Martin – another wonderful turnout. Most expected a continuation of the fine weather recently but were somewhat surprised when it rained unexpectedly, but not to the extent of getting soaked thankfully. Just a bit cold and damp which reminded us of the early weeks of 2021.

Elmdon was the departure point for Suzanne and Martin, on the stroke of 12.30pm.

It was very quiet for the first part of the ride, at least for Suzanne and Martin, with hardly a soul to be seen. But shortly after Clavering, Charles arrived suddenly from behind, screeched to a halt to take a couple of photos and then Gazelled off at high speed where he met a traffic jam of Windmillers at the Starlings Green junction, all socially distanced of course.

And then Brian and Jeremy arrived too, looking happy despite the damp.

It was a bit like old times as Andrew, Lindsey, Suzanne and Martin cycled on clockwise, a good distance apart but swapping around and having a variety of conversations which is what makes Windmill rides so special. (Do tune in to Planet Normal if you don’t already listen to this podcast!) In the meantime poor Graham was sitting in a bus shelter somewhere mending a puncture:

Graham with an interesting assortment of puncture repair gear around him. Perhaps using RapidDough is the latest technique?
Rod stopping for a quick swig, well kitted out for the weather.
Maurice and Alan going AC. Now where’s that postbox? Answers on a postcard please.
Lights blazing, Brian and Jeremy are coming through, still happy as sandpipers.

Back at Charles’s house in Chrishall, where he kindly hosted the charity box, a ghostly image appeared from a steamy upstairs window, stark naked, as Martin and Suzanne were depositing their fivers. And then it spoke, which scared the living daylights out of the two Windmillers. Was it the ghost of Chalky Lane spying to ensure that fivers and no coins were inserted? No, it was Charles himself leaning out of the window, baring his torso having enjoyed a hot shower and advising Martin as to the wherabouts of a package left for him by Maurice. Phew! That was the stuff of nightmares. Please don’t do that again Charles.

This is where we went:

A ride that should please the Scots, English and Welsh.

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to Graham, Charles and others who contributed photos – keep ’em coming.

Martin

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19 February. Luke 6: Verses 39-40. 24 miles.

The Gospel according to St. Luke and the nursery rhyme about Little Bo Peep losing her sheep sprang to mind after hearing from Simon about the 38 miles he and Andrew clocked up, when most Windmillers only managed around 24 miles on this repeat of a ride done only 2 weeks ago. Being PC about this, you’ll have to reach for your Bible to read the above passage, but suffice to say, The Unknowing leading the Unknowing is not far off the mark.

Simon explained that Andrew memorizes the route beforehand and has no need of modern contraptions like phones or GPX devices, or even Simon’s route on Komoot. Perhaps it was Andrew’s recent vaccination but Simon says long-covid had been avoided only to be replaced by long-rovid as they cycled along together. They indeed roved both near and far from the allotted route, despite the lovely Komoot lady from the Deep South screaming ‘Do a U-turn’, and ended up doing a semi-circumnavigation of Wimpole Hall. But, ‘It’s only fun when you get a bit lost’, claimed Andrew and by that measure Simon said they had quite a bit of fun! (Glad I’m not the only one who got lost on this route -see 4 February report. Ed. )

Just as a reminder, this is where we went 2 weeks ago and where we were all meant to go again:

There were other diversions too for some Windmillers due to a serious accident blocking the road between Chrishall Grange and the turning to Duxford Grange – a head on collision between a van and a car – but these only resulted in an extra mile or so via Ickleton. Reports of the accident have been difficult to find but we hope that no one was seriously hurt. By 12.30pm the vehicles concerned had been cleared away.

Scene of the accident near Chrishall Grange. A UPS van was one of the vehicles involved.

The remaining 14 Windmillers who did not get lost comprised Maurice, Charles, Alan, Geoff, Roger, Graham, Mike, Suzanne, Howard, Brian, Jeremy, Rod, Lawrence, Ken and Martin – another excellent turnout – with Lawrence kindly hosting the charity box. Once again, The Moringa Tree Café proved to be a good meeting place as the C’s met the AC’s, joined at one stage by a couple of Brompton riders who had commuted out from Cambridge on their fine bikes.

For Martin, the highlight was a sausage roll as recommended by Brian recently – one of the best ever. But he was a bit disappointed they didn’t sell Moringa, a tree whose chopped up leaves are thought to cure all known ailments, even hangovers.

Graham looking on enviously as Martin is about to tuck into his sausage roll

The AC route from The Moringa Tree involved the steep Chapel Hill towards Barrington, where Geoff was encountered going C-wards and where Rod and Charles caught up with the socially distanced group of Graham, Suzanne, Mike and Martin going AC-wards, having rocketed up Chapel Hill on their e-bikes. The cruise through to Orwell was pleasant but thereafter a strong wind was on the nose resulting in Rod and Martin, it has to be admitted, holding hands at one point (but only because Rod kindly offered to give Martin a tow, in case you were wondering).

Brian and Jeremy stopping for a breather
Suzanne and Graham homeward bound
Ken and Charles overlooking Duxford airfield

Back in Duxford, Mike spotted a beaten up Triumph Herald Convertible in a back garden awaiting restoration and promptly told a tale about how he and three other students drove such a car to Istanbul and back in the 60’s, with countless breakdowns there and back, including a wheel falling off, but getting back in one piece. Those cars were indeed repairable on the move, unlike today’s electronics-laden vehicles which are fine until they go wrong. Perhaps the same thing can be said for e-bikes!

Fancy squashing four people into this and driving to Istanbul without seat belts? No thanks! But mad Mike did just that.

And so ended a fine ride in very mild weather, which augurs well for the weeks and months to come.

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organising us, but step up someone to be Andrew’s map reading / GPX tutor! (And can I join in too? Ed.)

Martin

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15 February. The last of the winter whine? 20 miles

Have we heard the last of the whines about the cold weather experienced over the past 6 weeks? Can we finally shed a layer or two and stop discussing the merits and costs of heated bike gloves? Who will be the first to bare their knees? If this day was anything to go by we can look forward to some nice balmy days ahead. And with talk of infections coming down, lockdown being eased, pubs opening, birthdays being celebrated and even summer holidays being mentioned, this might explain why Windmillers were such a cheery, smiling bunch on ths ride (but isn’t this always the case?). Deborah’s photo above of Audley End House and happy munching geese sort of sums it all up.

A large turnout of 12 Windmillers for a Monday was also an indication of happier times, the others being Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Charles, Nick, Simon, Lawrence, Alan, Geoff, Suzanne and Martin, all joining a CAC circuit planned by Maurice and with Charles hosting the charity box, which collected the grand sum of £75 with more due.

This is where we went:

But despite the sun and warmth there were still signs here and there of the snow and ice that we have endured in recent weeks, with a surprising amount still surviving on the road from Elmdon towards Crawley End:

Suzanne and an ex-snowdrift near Elmdon

Further reports of snow near Poppy’s Barn were also heard but not enough to concern anyone as it was melting rapidly, and had probably disappeared completely by the time Deborah reached it, having started later than others.

The e-bike brigade of Maurice, Rod, Charles and Nick were seen whizzing around on their high powered steeds but Charles was happy to slam on his disc brakes in Elmdon to show off his fancy new Gazelle:

Charles saddled up on his speedy Gazelle

Thanks go as usual to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride. Where would we be without those heroes?

Martin

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4 February. Gazelle spotted in South Cambs. 24 miles.

Not the one above, which is capable of a 60 mph sprint and a 30 mph sustained speed, but this one:

Yes, Charles has finally joined the e-bike brigade and here he is proudly showing off his new Dutch Gazelle to fellow e-bike enthusiast Geoff who promptly offered to loan his speed gadget to encourage Charles to get closer to a real gazelle’s cruising speed of 30 mph (but not a chance of reaching 60 mph).

Charles’s conversion brings the number of e-Windmillers up to five, and it probably won’t be long before a few more sign up……………. They are a brilliant means of getting around our lanes, but heaving them on / off or into a car requires either a decent carrier or muscles like Maurice.

The focus of this CAC ride was Fowlmere where Lawrence kindly hosted our charity box, into which the grand sum of £115 including a handful of 50p pieces was deposited. This was the result of 16 Windmillers taking part, the others being Andrew, Alan, Roger, Graham, Julia, Ken, Howard, Brian, Jeremy, Tom, Rod and Martin. This is where we went:

Thanks to Brian’s recommendation of the Moringa Tree café in Haslingfield this proved to be a popular stop for a coffee, so popular that much social distancing was necessary whilst excellent coffee was consumed. No doubt, Brian was looking forward to munching on another sausage roll.

A Moringa Tree in the wild. It’s a tropical tree that can survive droughts. Moringa is often called the drumstick tree because of its skinny, foot-long pods. It also goes by mother’s best friend, the miracle tree, the never die tree, and the ben oil tree. You can eat almost all of the moringa, including the seeds, flower, and leaves. There are different types. Moringa oleifera — the most studied one — comes from south Asia and has been eaten there for centuries. Moringa is also common in Africa. It’s been used to treat everything from tumors to toothaches. So there you are, ask for a cup of Moringa Tree tea the next time you’re in Haslingfield and all your current and future ills will be cured.

En route to Haslingfield, Windmillers hailed each other regularly as they passed, sometimes in the sun but more often in fog / mist which blanketed parts of the countryside and made other Windmillers quite difficult to spot at times. There were also noticeably more cyclists on the roads, probably due to the proximity of Cambridge.

The Imperial War Museum basking in sunshine
Simon and Lawrence. Watch out for those South Cambs speed bumps – they work.
Roger chose his hi-viz outfit due to thick fog in Furneux Pelham when he set off.

All in all, this was a very easy and pleasant ride with an excellent turnout. Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising it and to Graham for some of the photos.

Martin

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29 January. Upright citizens all. 25 miles.

The evidence surrounding last week’s fall guys and a gal was limited to tales of woe after the event. Andrew therefore decided to fall again, this time on purpose, at the same spot that the mighty had fallen but got a wet bum in the process. Imagine black ice and running water at the same place – that’s how it was. But this week, Windmillers were all upright citizens and well behaved for a change.

The CAC route was therefore a repeat of last week’s and the conditions were somewhat better – very mild but also very wet following more rain earlier in the week which led to high river levels and ditches full to overflowing, plus another postponement by a day to a Friday for the second week running. What a cold and wet January it has generally been but the snowdrops and aconites are out, the daffodils are poking through, the birds are singing and all is well, except for the f…ing virus of course.

Looking towards Great Chishill windmill

E-bikers Maurice and Rod were seen in Chrishall doing a C ride as Martin set off and it wasn’t long before C Roger and AC Martin met in Nuthampsted by the war memorial and were busy chatting when Andrew appeared, doing an AC ride. This prompted a socially distanced photo, or are they about to engage in some kind of virus rage? Make up your own mind:

‘Stay away from me – I don’t want your filthy bug.’ Roger and Andrew in Nuthampsted.

Approaching Great Hormead, Graham and Julia were coming the other way, which provided yet another war memorial photo:

Graham and Julia at the memorial for Archie Daniels whose plane crashed near Great Hormead in 1944

Graham and Julia had been helping Charles mend a puncture just down the road but by the time Andrew and Martin got there Charles was busy mending puncture no. 2 as the first repair had not worked. So puncture specialist Andrew quickly got to work whilst Martin didn’t have much to do except drink coffee and record the occasion for posterity, whilst avoiding being soaked by large lorries ploughing through a nearby puddle the size of a small lake. Howard also stopped to lend moral support.

Rod and Maurice were seen once again near Little Hormead, having had a good ride, and meanwhile Charles sped on ahead to catch up on lost time, no doubt thinking about which hi-tech e-bike he might procure. It might have a bell and a whistle.

Hot Rod and Aston Maurice in Little Hormead

The offensive stretch of road near Furneux Pelham was awash with water, which just goes to show how easy it is for this to ice over once the temperature drops. A warning sign or two would be good to see at this site.

The same pony and trap that was featured last week was seen once again in Furneux Pelham accompanied by another – a nice sight and a pleasant reminder of Spring being around the corner.

Windmillers spot all kinds of things on their travels around the lanes – some have a keen eye / ear for birds of the feathered kind, some for the non-feathered kind, some like Sandra can spot a herd of deer a mile away, some are always on the look out for interesting landscapes, some are petrol heads but Simon is always looking out for rusty old bits of junk lying in farmyards and hedgerows. This is the gem he spotted between Wicken Bonhunt and Arkesden:

Now isn’t that just the best bit of scrap you’ve ever seen? Simon would love to have that in his back garden, but Karen might think otherwise.
Or perhaps this? Could come in useful as a tank trap.

The stream was gushing through Arkesden like it was in a real hurry to get to the Wash. Reports of deep water through the ford at Newland End were coming in and so Martin accompanied Julia up past the church as she was finishing her ride and then took a left to Newland End, bypassing the ford. Andrew carried on, negotiated the ford successfully – his bum was already wet and so he wouldn’t have minded falling in – and then bumped into Martin again near Anne Curry’s house, the lady sculptor, at Newland End – well worth visiting on a fine day when she is holding an exhibition.

Charles kindly hosted the charity box once again but this time with a camera installed nearby to deter burglars and also check up on Windmillers depositing their fivers. But, somewhat akin to how wild animals adjust to cameras eavesdropping in their natural environment, Windmillers acted in a similar way when discovering it. Brian took a photo of it, Howard peered at it and Simon even picked it up, tossed it around and repositioned it. Clearly, we’re all animals beneath the surface, some wilder than others.

Big brother is watching you!

Others taking part in the ride were Brian and Jeremy, who did the northern section, Geoff (whose bruise from last week is hopefully better), Mike (who was seen heading off for a few more km with Graham), and Ken (who did a later ride). Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride and bringing better weather this week.

Martin

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22 January. The Fall Guys (and a Gal). 25 miles.

Who would have thought that within a mile of this glorious photograph of a pony and trap outside Furneux Pelham church, Windmillers were skidding and sliding on the most severe black ice experienced in the history of The Windmill Club? Despite messages and phone calls this didn’t stop Rod, Mike, Geoff, Charles, Martin (the fall guys) and Deborah (the fall gal) all toppling off at different times, some at Furneux Pelham and some elsewhere. Luckily all escaped serious injury but with a few bruises for some. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence of the carnage which took place – it’s hard to imagine from the photos that follow that such conditions could have existed, but they did. This is not fake news. (Happy to add photos of bruises at a later date. Ed.)

The ride planned for the day before was cancelled due to the high winds of Storm Christoph, but did anyone read The Guardian early on Friday?

Freeze expected on heels of flooding damage from Storm Christoph, shouted the headline and this was indeed confirmed by Charles at 07.44 and Andrew at 08.01.

For Martin, the day started with a slithery drive up to Chrishall from Ickleton – quite good fun in fact using opposite lock on some of the bends. But that resulted in another warning message to Windmillers followed by orders from barking Dawg Andrew to DISMOUNT on the hill down to Wicken Bonhunt. However, before then, Deborah had already had a nasty fall into the road when avoiding a car coming towards her and was taking it easy, suffering from a bruised hip, when Charles and Martin caught up with her between Rickling and Berden. Tales then slowly emerged of other falls, mainly on the Furneux Pelham black ice.

A large herd of deer, including Albinos, sandwiched between Charles and Roger near Rickling. Roger was unaware at this stage of the black ice to come, so close to his home in Furneux Pelham.
Rod giving an account of his fall – broken mirror and a bruise but could have been worse. Martin suggested he might strap an airbag on the back of his bike in future. Meanwhile, Maurice escaped unscathed.

Charles sped on ahead and so Deborah and Martin cruised slowly onwards, stopping for a coffee in the bus shelter just before Furneux Pelham where a call was received from Charles warning of the ice in the lane after the church, where he had two falls.

Deborah enjoying her coffee not knowing what was in store just a mile further on………

Alan caught up as Deborah and Martin were chatting to the owner of the pony and trap in Furneux Pelham after which, with some trepidation, they proceeded onwards to tackle the ice. Just before getting to the dodgy part, they met Mike and Graham coming the other way, Mike having had a painful tumble but Graham managed to get through without falling, having sensibly reduced his tyre pressures. It was tempting to do a U-turn at that point but, hey-ho, Windmillers are always up for a challenge and so Alan led the way forward, very gingerly. The road was awash with water and black ice – a lethal combination – but having got through what was meant to be the worst bit, Martin had his second fall of the day (the first during a photo shoot) when, despite a shout from Alan, his Schwalbe Marathons at 90psi decided to give way on an icy camber and off he came. However, he was practically stationary at the time and his slow motion fall was described by Deborah, who had a good view from behind, as being ‘the most uncool fall’ she had ever witnessed. How’s that for fame?

Proceeding in a sociually distanced / obeying the rules fashion, the trio settled down to enjoy the final downwind stretch towards Anstey and Nuthamsted when Alan pulled up sharply with puncture no. 2 in his front tyre, the first one having happened before he set off. It was tough work getting his tyre back on the rim but once achieved all went smoothly from then on.

Alan and Martin commencing puncture repair no. 2 on Alan’s bike – a thin piece of flint may have been the culprit.

Others taking part were Howard, Julia, Lawrence, Brian and Jeremy. Howard and Roger were warned about the ice as they passed through Anstey and escaped unscathed, Julia used her gravel bike and went off road at times to avoid the ice, Lawrence went off-route, courtesy of Komoot, which must have known of the ice as it took him a different way, and Brian / Jeremy must have had a premonition of the disaster to come having announced beforehand they would not be riding the Furneux Pelham stretch – wise men! (Actually, it was because they were starting from Shelford – lucky them.)

This is the icy circuit:

Back at Charles’s house, where he was hosting the charity box, who would have known what adventures we had experienced? The weather was idyllic, Brian had been happily trying to obtain water from Charles’s emergency water supply (frozen solid perhaps) and Deborah was playing with her new puppy Esther which had returned for a spot of puppy sitting by Fiona. A different world.

It was a lovely ride, Maurice, despite the ice but one we shall no doubt be still talking about for many years to come. And thanks to Andrew for his organisation and for barking orders at us – that’s what to expect from a good dawg. Thanks also to Brian and Deborah for some of the photos (and for the blog title, Deborah!).

Martin

PS Charles reports that the grand sum of £115 was raised, which includes some past debts and advance payments. Maurice will soon need to present a balance sheet to keep tabs on the accounts.

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18 January. B–st-rds galore. 20 miles.

The good thing about lockdown is that it brings out Windmillers in their droves to keep fit and remain sane. And our charity box fills up handsomely as a result. As Charles put it so eloquently on WhatsApp, he saw lots of b–st-rds on the circuit – a possible record for a Monday with 16 Windmillers taking part.

Mind you, after the terrible weather of late who wouldn’t want to jump on a bike and enjoy almost Spring-like conditions? Grab the opportunity whilst you can seemed to be the order of the day.

Simon very kindly hosted the charity box and was just about to set off at 12.30pm when Suzanne and Martin arrived having cycled from Abington and Ickleton, meeting Julia on the way who shot up Coploe Hill like greased lightning. After an inspection of Simon’s impressive raised asparagus beds which he had been mending that morning, Andrew then arrived and they set off in an AC direction using the same route as the week before. Others taking part were Maurice, Rod, Geoff, Graham, Victor, Brian, Deborah, Jenni, Lawrence and Alan.

This is where we went:

Andrew double checking his Schwalbe Marathons at Simon’s
Suzanne and Simon ready for the off. Note Simon’s smart new charity box, weighed down with a chunk of lead to stop it blowing away. (But extra booty for a thief should it be stolen.)

Martin and Suzanne set off in a C direction and it wasn’t long before they came across the stationary figure of Rod at the bottom of Hill Bastardo furiously pumping air into his rear tyre due to a slow puncture. Removing the rear wheel of his e-bike was not something he would relish and after some discussion he decided to carry on up the hill and to review the situation at Simon’s house, if he got there. Luckily for him, rescue man Maurice was not far behind who caught him up at Simon’s and proceeded to inject some kind of super sealant mixed with Propane into the tyre, ensuring no sparks were created, and this did the trick. Zefal is the name of the magic potion apparently. Just as well it didn’t explode as Rocket Rod could be on the moon by now.

Will I, won’t I get as far as Simon’s?

Cruising around the lanes at a leisurely pace was very pleasant, and a reminder that the weather is kind to us most of the time. It’s probably also fed up with lockdown and likes to blow it’s top every now and again.

Geoff going AC near Strickling Green

Brian and Victor, on the other hand, were clearly setting out to break records having reported cycling so fast, heads down, that they whizzed straight past Simon’s house. They clocked up 35 miles having started from Stapleford / Shelford and saw Rod, Maurice, Charles and Julia on their AC circuit. No doubt Graham clocked up a huge distance too and Suzanne would also have done around 40 miles. Well done to all the long distance travellers.

Simon reported that £75 was collected but this should swell once some dues are settled on the next ride.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation of the ride.

Martin

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15 January. Floody cold for 20 miles.

On the whole the weather has not been very kind to us so far in January and today was no exception, despite the ride being postponed from the day before when it was truly awful. At least it wasn’t raining but on the other hand the heavy rain of the 14th caused river levels to rise and flood the roads badly around Hinxton, resulting in U-turns by some Windmillers and cold wet feet for others. The lucky ones escaped with a diversion to the main road between Ickleton and Duxford, thanks to WhatApp pinging away.

It was also very cold as 15 Windmillers ventured out at various times from 9.30am onwards to avoid mingling and to obey the rules, and it worked out well. Barista Lawrence (more anon) very kindly hosted the charity box again which received visits from Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Mike, Ken, Brian, Jeremy (a friend of Brian’s), Rod, Alan, Roger, Charles and Martin.

Martin took a look at his weather station at 9.36am and decided that 5 layers were needed and a 10.30am start was quite early enough.

Hello Simon! Hello Charles! It’s funny how one’s vision plays tricks when there are many other cyclists on the road. How do you spot a Windmiller charging towards you if he/she is not displaying a toy windmill provided specifically for that purpose last year? Before reaching Duxford Martin was convinced he saw Simon in his usual summer gear and then he swore he saw some stripey socks on the chap riding behind Deborah in Whittlesford but his cheery hellos got no responses, just looks of ‘who is this nutter?’. But it was Deborah in Whittlesford, wasn’t it? If not, it was another lovely lady who smiled. A later report from Graham confirmed it was definitely not Simon because, adding on a few extra miles at the end of his ride, he was surprised to come across Simon near Wenden Lofts, just a wee bit off route……..

By taking the Ickleton to Duxford Road, going AC, little did Martin realise the carnage going on just half a mile away across the flooded meadows. Brian and Jeremy had forgotten their swimming trunks, otherwise they might have combined their bikes into a pedalo to traverse the first flood leading towards Hinxton, and so they U-turned and continued to Ickleton on the main road. Graham, Mike and Alan meanwhile tackled the flood on the Ickleton side of Hinxton, also going AC, and got through even though it was ankle deep at times on the pedals. Luckily they were not swept downstream but Mike got very wet and eventually retired in Thriplow with feet so cold they could not turn the pedals.

Here are the dilemmas they faced:

Howling like wolves in the tunnel under the M11 at Little Shelford, Martin and Andrew stopped for a chat. Andrew confessed that he had two punctures already that week in his beloved Schwalbe Marathons and so he’s already in the running for the puncture prize 2021 barely two weeks in. He blamed long thorns from recent hedgecutting, which is indeed a nuisance this time of year.

I love my Schwalbe Marathons!

Another encounter took place near Thriplow when Brian and Jeremy told of their earlier experience in Hinxton and it was good to see Geoff too coming up behind, pleased that his e-bike is now behaving itself.

The coffee stop rules at Lawrence’s were obeyed to the letter when Martin arrived. No one was around and so he selected a garden chair to stretch out and soak up what little sun there was and to drink his coffee. It wasn’t long, however, before the patron himself arrived and offered a proper coffee which was accepted by Roger who arrived too. Barista Lawrence duly went indoors, got out his coffee making gear and after much steam generation and hissing he delivered a fine looking brew at the take away window.

The best Barista in Fowlmere.
Ever smiling Roger, despite his frozen toes.

Lawrence reported that the local water table had risen to a level not seen for many years, the proof of which was to be found in a ditch between Fowlmere and the A505. For the benefit of this historic occasion a stop had to be made at said ditch:

The Fowlmere ditch that never fills with water. Wasn’t it Boris Johnson who said in September 2019 he would rather be dead in a ditch than ask Brussels for an extension to Brexit? This one might have suited him quite well, a bit narrow perhaps?

After Chrishall Grange Roger and Martin went their separate ways. Just before Ickleton Martin heard a whooshing of tyres behind him, clearly someone coming up fast, and of course it turned out to be Graham who had been half way round the world already that day. Well done, Graham , you’re clearly out to beat your 2020 record.

This is where we went:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5195952

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew once again for their organisation, to all those who took photos and to Graham for the previous evening’s Zoom meeting (but not well attended probably due to no ride that ride). We raised £80 according to Lawrence, including accounts receivable.

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Monday 11 Jan 2021. Virus Challenge

I know corona virus is all around us, but these are not tough days, these are challenging days. These are some of the most challenging days we have ever known. The challenge of course is to stay fit and sane, so that you are ready for when things finally perk up. Think warm spring sunshine, a pint in one hand. You know you can do it, take it one day at a time.

From Littlebury Green I set off clockwise up the hill heading for the Royston road. I needed a breather by the time I got to the radio-tower at the top of the hill. Too much turkey and Christmas pud I suppose. I took a photo and thought, ‘I wonder why those aerials are all different shapes. I bet there are people for whom that is fascinating’. And sure, enough there are fans of radio-towers. You can buy a list of them or download the android app (mastdata), then visit them and tick them off. There are 2342 authentic ones around the country and websites for enthusiasts who add annotated photos and leave comments. I have included one such here.

My local tower. The thing I like most about it is that you know you are finally at the top of the hill.

Somebody is out there making your mobile phone work. Please be grateful in a number of ways.

LTE is ‘long term evolution’ for the uninitiated, a step in our journey to 5G.  My wife didn’t find anything about this surprising. She simply said, ‘I know, I have dated men like than’.

The route was like this:

It’s always a relief to encounter fellow club members on the ride. It means you have got the right day, no mean feat during lock-down. And that you are on the right route, very reassuring when you are as bad at routes as me. I was well into the ride and feeling pigeon poetry coming on before meeting Alan. Very soon Julia and Graham past me. A little later Lawrence and I cycled on, within the rules, for much of the rest of the trip.

Both Rod and Lawrence had close encounters with lorries carrying straw, which are a common hazard this time of year. Either they cover the road with slimy straw or retain some of it on their trailers and push you off the road instead. Likewise, Andrew had the customary 4 by 4 encounter.

Just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean it’s safe of course.  

Club members were able to avail themselves of a new charity box. We raised £60 which I think is commendable for a cold Monday.

We received doctor’s notes to be excused ‘physical education’ from Deborah, who planned to ride but was too tired after Samaritan’s work in the night and Martin with a case of digging-man’s-back. Brian had a good long ride which only overlapped with ours for a very few miles. Those attending in a more conventional sense were Andrew, Rod, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Alan, Lawrence, Maurice. It was a great pleasure to see you all and to know that you are all up for the ‘I’ll still be here after this bloody virus’ challenge.

Since I know some of you are parents with ‘returning’ off-spring I thought I would share with you the following story. It started with a mystery. My son who lives in the other half of the house, beyond the conservatory, would walk through into the main house, use the facilities then return to his domain. Puzzled I eventually enquired why, since there is a bathroom and toilet in his self-contained area. The reply was, ‘well sometimes it smells, and I am working all the time over there’. Yes, I thought that’s why you are an economist. That’s the way most big businesses behave.  

Next Thursday’s ride will be on Friday. As if I weren’t already sufficiently disorientated. By way of retaliation I finish with more pigeon poetry, which various club members have assured me is indeed, very bad. Well here you go, you deserve it.

Pigeon. Early life and career.

I grew up in the North with green fields aplenty
And won my first race by the time I was twenty
Talented they said, contact a pigeon fancier
With wind in my ears what I heard was ‘financier’

To London I went, fine place for a young pigeon
So much money to make, no time for religion
With pigeons of all types, race was no barrier
Did business with fantails, homing and carrier

I know making money is a pursuit sometimes vulgar
Still they built me a tall perch in a square called Trafalgar
With grey sky above me, some dreary Admiral below
Doing business was easy for this bird in the know

They came crying help! for my business is blighted
You’re a smart pigeon, so clever, farsighted 
Being able to see things from great elevation
I got rich doing deals between business and nation

I retired to Essex where the sky is much bluer
With big fields of grain and where people are fewer
Enjoying apple buds in the spring and grain in the fall
Being a healthy old pigeon is no trouble at all

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7 January. Traffic jam in Fowlmere

‘How many layers are you wearing?’ was the topic of many a conversation on this very cold day. Forecasted to be -1C but in practice around +0.5C and with talk of icy roads, it was a relief to find the only ice was on Lawrence’s windscreen in Fowlmere, with the mysterious words ‘Rev was here’ scrawled on it.

Despite the initial cold, 14 hardy Windmillers comprising Maurice, Andrew, Ken, Rod, Roger, Graham, Charles, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Lawrence and Martin turned out to do a CAC ride centred on Fowlmere and taking in Thriplow, Newton, Little Shelford, Ickleton and Chrishall Grange. Some did a variation of this route including Ken and Martin who decided to warm up first with a climb to Elmdon from Ickleton, requiring a strip off of one layer by Martin in Elmdon only to get cold again on the downhill stretch from Crawley End. Others took to the Duxford Grange Road to avoid the Ickleton to Chrishall Grange road which had reports of ice and puddles the day before but regretted having done so due to the aftermath of sugar beet lorries near Duxford Grange.

CAC rides are designed to avoid Windmillers congregating together and obeying the rules, which is generally the case. But for some reason, despite starting from different locations a large number descended on Lawrence’s house, where he was hosting the charity box, at around the same time. Perhaps it was the need to warm up a bit, but some realised it was time to get ‘on yer bike’ whilst others recognised the scale of the traffic jam and sensibly cycled on. At least Lawrence wasn’t there, which helped a bit.

The weather improved considerably after 11.00am, the sun emerged and most arrived home as warm as toast, if not warmer.

This was not a day for taking photos it seems, due to numb fingers. But Simon rode the same route the day before and has contributed the artistic masterpiece above (he has a great love of rusty old iron) and this one below, spotted somewhere en route:

Thanks to Simon for this week’s pics.

And this is where most went:

An item of sad news was heard concerning Roger’s wife who was bitten badly by a dog over the Christmas period resulting in a trip to A&E in Stevenage and then being kept in the hospital for 4 days due to an infection. We wish her a continued recovery from the nasty incident.

Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the route, and to Graham for the evening’s Zoom session.

Martin