Saddened to hear of the death of Victor’s wife, Rose, a few weeks ago, Thursday’s outing provided an opportunity to send our condolences and make a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Humberstone family’s nominated charity.
Maurice had mapped out a 30 mile circuit – to be tackled either individually or in socially distanced small groups – taking in Chrishall, Arkesden, Rickling, Manuden, Hazel End, Farnham, the Pelhams and the Langleys. Along the way showers threatened, catching some Windmillers and sparing others, but the roads were quiet and the countryside scenic.
Pulling in to Chrishall, Charles hosted us on his croquet lawn, laying on lashings of beer and plentiful nibbles.
Sporting his signature stripey hose, his natty footwear accessorised with colourful Hickies, Charles was the clear winner of this week’s Best Shod Windmiller Award, Suzanne coming a close second in her shocking pink / rich plum trainers.
Counting the charity box takings, Andrew announced we had collected £440, a club record, and Maurice proposed we make it up with club funds to £500 for this very special cause.
Thanks, as ever to Maurice and Andrew for organising things; Charles too for his hospitality.
As ever, you will find more pictures in the gallery on our website.
Maurice devised a cunning route on this warm summer’s evening which involved a half way stop at Simon and Ollie’s house in Elmdon, where Simon had very kindly offered to show off his new outdoor bar to members of the Windmill Club. As a result, eight thirsty Windmillers gathered outside The Bull at Lower Langley for a 20 mile ride around the lanes, the intention being to call in there also at the end of the ride. So much for good intentions……………
This is where Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Deborah, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin intended to go:
All went swimmingly as far as Elmdon, via Shaftenhoe End, Great Chishill and Heydon with no more than 3 or 4 in a group at any time. Simon and Ollie gave us a warm welcome as we sat in their lovely garden, suitably distanced, admiring Simon’s new bar from which he generously dispensed beers and soft drinks whilst Ollie distributed nibbles. It was a jolly gathering and time just vanished as we chatted around the table, only to realise eventually that we would be much later than usual getting back to base.
Dragging ourselves away after thanking Simon and Ollie for their kind hospitality, we decided to shave off a mile or so by taking the newly surfaced path through Elmdon wood to Catmere End instead of looping around on the road.
Emerging at Catmere end provided another opportunity for a photocall in the evening sunshine:
Obeying the rules
On we went down Hill Bastardo but it was after that when things went a bit awry. The group split up heading towards Arkesden with Maurice out front and Rod bringing up the rear with Charles, but after waiting some time in Arkesden it was clear that something had gone wrong. So Maurice offered to whizz back on his e-bike to try to find Rod and Charles and in the meantime Martin entertained the others with his dove impressions, trying his best to communicate with a dove sitting overhead on a telephone wire, but wisely not directly overhead in case the dove disapproved of the mating call:
Sadly, Rod and Charles had taken a right turn towards Dudddenhoe End and so Maurice missed them and ended up back on the Wendens Ambo road before all decided to make their way separately back to Lower Langley. By this time it was getting quite late and as The Bull had no real ale on offer, all decided to say farewell and head back home.
Thanks to Maurice for devising the route, Andrew for organising us and, once again, Simon and Ollie for their kind hospitality. We all thoroughly approved of Simon’s bar.
Ah, those idyllic summer rides; tyres singing on the tarmac, the wind in your hair, the breeze in your gusset.
The warmest day of the year saw nineteen Windmillers turn out for a tour of Fowlmere, Shrepreth, Littlington, Wimpole, Barrington and Newton. Not just socially distanced, but widely distributed around a 29 mile circuit, our runners and riders were Maurice, Andrew, Howard, Charles, Ric, Geoff, Graham, Martin, Suzanne, Chris, Tom, Deborah, Jenni, Roger, Rod, Ken, Yorkie Brian, Brummie Brian and Lawrence.
Maurice having planned the route, Andrew ensured our starts were spread out, half of us going clockwise and half anticlockwise. And Lawrence, top chap, hosted the beer and charity box in his garden at Fowlmere.
Maurice, on his antique yellow bike, sustained an early puncture but – as the rest of us weren’t around to help (ie hinder) – he had it fixed and back on the road in record time.
Crossing the Wimpole estate, we pulled in for a takeaway coffee at the café. The service was so slow, however, that Martin and Suzanne attempted that old queue jumping trick of striking up an avid conversation with a friend near the front. Alas, a brisk rebuke from upstanding members of the National Trust saw them suitably shamed and sent scurrying to the back of the queue. Tut, tuts all round.
Lawrence, keen to get back and host the Fowlmere refreshments, pushed himself so hard he could barely walk after dismounting. And Simon whizzing around to finish in a personal best time, was disappointed to narrowly miss his target of two hours. Maybe next time – with the help of shaved legs and some figure hugging lycra – he will fulfil that dream.
With steady rain forecast for the early part of the day it was only the brave that set out early on this ride to Wimpole Hall. Maurice and Andrew waited until 10.00am and Martin, the Wimpole Wimp-of-the-day, left it until 12.15pm to set off, just as the bedraggled early starters were returning to Lawrence’s house for a wet beer. Some, including Brian, Tom and Chris, wisely opted out completely.
In all there was a healthy turnout of 13 Windmillers, the others being Graham, Deborah, Jenny, Lawrence, Ric, Rod, Charles, Simon T, Roger and Geoff. But due to the delayed start some only saw the occasional Windmiller passing by in the opposite direction.
Here is the planned route but in practice we all cut the corner at Arrington and proceeded directly through the grounds of Wimpole Hall on what is a National By-way (despite what Wimpole Hall might say):
Martin’s ride was pleasantly dry throughout with increasing sunshine as he approached Wimpole in a clockwise direction which enabled him to take a photo from Croydon of a lovely view across to our familiar hills:
Roger announced later during the Zoom session that the same view was obliterated with rain when he cycled along the same road earlier.
The grounds of Wimpole Hall were quite busy with children particularly enjoying splashing about in the puddles. Deborah reports that the coffee shop was open for one of her and Jenny’s two coffees en route. The whereabouts of the second stop is unknown. Perhaps it was at Rod’s suggested farm stop in Croydon but it had shut up shop by the time Martin got there apparently due to a power cut.
Other than Barrington Hill / Chapel Hill the route was devoid of anything difficult to climb and should be very pleasant to do again on 25 June when the weather is due to be hot and sunny.
Lawrence very kindly provided beer and refreshments at his house in Fowlmere and also these photos of members relaxing in his garden, and Graham mending a puncture which fortunately happened just as he finished the ride:
And by the time Martin got back for a beer at 3.15pm the garden was ablaze with sunshine:
Thanks also to Maurice for planning the route, Andrew for organising us and Graham for hosting the evening’s Zoom pub session.
Upper Langley or Lower Langley? That was the question on this warm summer’s evening as 8 Windmillers gathered once more for a socially distanced ride – 6 being the max allowed in one group under the current regs but, in practice, 8 spread out and so there was never more than 4 or so in a group at any time. So all above board!
As it happened, Andrew got an earful from a resident of Upper Langley for wishing to park outside their house and Deborah began to park near to where Simon and Martin had parked their cars before being advised to shift it down to the Bull at Lower Langley where Rod had parked and where Andrew decided to park too. Andrew and Rod then cycled back to Upper to meet up with Maurice, Nick, Charles, Simon and Martin before heading back to Lower to collect Deborah. Ah, the logistics of a Windmill ride take some beating at times!
Eventually, after Nick had re-mounted his bike after a stationary fall, none the worse for wear, we all set off in an anti-clockwise direction around a pleasant route that Maurice had devised:
Rod was tasked with being back marker / sweeper upper on his powerful e-bike and the group soon spread out over half a mile or more as we moved easily along in light winds towards Little Chishill. Then it was up to Nuthampstead past Bridget T’s house and through to Anstey, giving a shout to Keith as we passed near his house. It would be good to see him and also ‘Husky’ Andrew from Nuthampstead back out with us again now that the Corona virus lockdown has eased.
By this time we were well spread out with Maurice, Nick and Charles a long way ahead when Simon missed the turning to Great Hormead despite much hollering from Deborah, Andrew and Martin, ending up in Hare Street as a result. Martin then gave him the wrong directions for making his own way to Brent Pelham where he thought we might meet him again and so a U-turn was necessary by Simon whilst the others waited for him to reappear. The logistics of this ride were becoming memorable with Maurice calling to ask if we were all ok.
Eventually the tortoises met up with the hares outside our usual stopping place, Furneux Pelham church.
And the second sign below describes how good it was to be out and about again on a Monday ride with the Windmill Club:
The return leg via Brent Pelham, Meesden, where Nick peeled off, and Roast Green was uneventful until Simon attempted to start his car only to find the battery was flat. Finding the tow hook was difficult too and so instead of Martin giving him a tow we opted to call up Andrew who by that time was back at the Bull and who had his jump leads on board his Chelsea tractor, which came quickly to the rescue.
Charles headed for home in Chrishall having cycled to and from the start, clocking up around 30 miles in all – well done, Charles – whilst those remaining gathered outside the Bull for a well earned socially distanced beer consumed just off the pub premises, contributing to the bounce back of the local economy as they did so. Maurice also cycled to and from the start on his e-bike, clocking up 40 miles.
Thanks to Maurice for devising a great route and to Andrew for herding us.
The pubs may be closed and the rules forbid gatherings of more than six – but that doesn’t mean we can’t all share a 30 mile route. Joining at different places around the circuit, some going clockwise, others anticlockwise, it’s fun to glimpse fellow Windmillers along the way. Sometimes it’s just to exchange a friendly wave, other times to pull over for a socially distanced chat on a quiet lane. What larks!
Sorry to have missed Andrew, Howard, Ken and any other Windmillers who didn’t cross the photographer’s path. Will get you next time.
Andrew reports we collected £110 for charity.
Thanks, Maurice for another lovely route. And a special thanks to Simon for the pop-up, self-service bar in Littlebury Green; the refreshments were much appreciated.
PS You may notice we have updated the website; a new look and a few new pages too. Check it out.
In June we are restricted to six for easing the boredom of lock-down. Not six gin and tonics a day, but groups of six riders for a club event. It was perfect then, when Andrew, Deborah, Geoff, Maurice, Rod and Simon accepted the challenge of an ‘off road’ route organised and planned by Andrew. With a three o’clock start it was warm but this was saved by a cooling breeze. Rod just made it to the starting gun after an abortive tele-medicine attempt, likewise Deborah, because that’s what we expect of her. After a month with practically no rain the ground was like concrete, the tracks were rough and anything loose on the bike was subject an extreme test; would it fall off. And fall off it did.
The tracks were mostly bridleways, which Andrew had learned during many years in the saddle. Now, I don’t know much about horses, certainly not when compared to some other members of the club. I do know from hard experience that standing at the front sometimes results in being bitten, but that standing at the back is even more dangerous. I have seen people sitting on top of them, but that seems ridiculously risky. Two meters off to the side was early practice in social distancing for me. I have noticed however, they have four legs and that these are positioned one at each corner. This gives them enviable stability on rough ground. Bikes on the other hand have just two points of contact with the earth and these are thin and round. Still riding on bridleways was going to be easy and fun. I just knew it.
We set off with every piece of the bike soon clattering. The flints shot out like bullets from the sides of the tyres. I was great. Soon Andrew stopped, his saddle-bag had rattled off and was now an extra brake on the back wheel. Then Maurice’s handle-bars shook loose. I think handle-bars are an underrated safety item. You can pay a fortune for a nice saddle-bag but people think any old handle-bars will do, best to bolt them on nice and tight. At every bump Rod’s bell gave out another tinkle. We only needed a chant of ‘bring out your dead’ to be just like the undertakers of old. Perhaps that’s not as funny right now as it once might have been.
This route is amazing. With long open sections across expansive hillsides and equally long green tunnels filled with dappled light. We went from trail to trail popping up in village after village. I knew some of these trails but not how they all joined up. It was a bit of a master-class and if you missed this ride I recommend trying it out.
We had overlooked the final, crucial bike component which is not firmly bolted on, club members. After two hours of challenging riding, on a heavy bike, through forest path, gravelled trail and deep ruts, Rod finally came off in the last half mile. Still Maurice was there, as he always is for club members and soon a slightly battered Rod was able to complete the course.
All that was left was a socially-distanced beer in the cool evening air, spaced around Andrew’s garden. So thanks to Andrew for organising the trip and planning the route. Also for hosting the start, finish, and for the beer. Thanks to Maurice for keeping a watchful eye on the rest of us. Back to road biking for me this Thursday, my looser bits have had a terrible shaking.
Trail. This one is off ‘The gap’ which is off Wicken Road, Arkesden
Not all the trails are well marked and a few years of exploring are recommended.
Due to the rapid spread of the Corona Virus and advice received from the Government and Cycling UK, there will be no organised Windmill Club rides for the forseeable future. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. For those wishing to keep in touch via WhatsApp, please contact Andrew.
Here’s a short video to help keep the Corona Man away:
Thanks to having eagle-eyed Sandra with us on this ride we were treated to a springtime display of wildlife as we cruised around the lanes. Starting from The Bull once again at Lower Langley and led by Maurice, the others joining him were Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin – 7 in all.
This is where we went, anti-clockwise:
The first creature that Sandra spotted, shortly after leaving, was standing on a bank clad in hi-viz yellow and coughing furiously as we went past. Hey, that’s not an animal we said, it’s the self-isolating Corona Man himself, Andrew. Indeed it was but we didn’t stop for a chat in case he got too close. We expected him to tag along behind at an acceptable distance but he was heading in the opposite direction. Luckily, it seems Andrew did not pick up the virus whilst visiting Northern Italy for a skiing holiday but he and Lindsay were forced to self-isolate for 2 weeks on their return, and today he was half way through.
Proceeding on towards Shaftenhoe End Sandra then spotted a large herd of deer, as big as the one seen last week at Catmere End but without the albinos – frequently seen around Elmdon but very rare. In the US it is illegal in many states to shoot albino deer as they are estimated to be as rare as 1 in 100,000.
Passing through Barkway and Reed we crossed the A10 and headed towards Therfield before turning left towards Buckland.
The star spot by Sandra was a massive barn owl, with a head the size of a football and a large wingspan, which took off just as we were approaching Buckland. Sadly no time to take a photo. Then Sandra spotted two more large herds of deer, grazing quite close to each other, by which time we were convinced that she could easily join the BBC Springwatch team.
Re-crossing the A10 at a not particularly pleasant junction we meandered on admiring the countryside which was bursting with vigour. Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a drink outside, keeping our distance, until it got so cold we just had to occupy the empty public bar to warm up!
Thanks to the rapid spread of the Corona virus, there was an acceptance that this could be the last Windmill Club ride for a while, which turned out to be the case, but we agreed that we would find ways and means of still getting out on our bikes in the weeks ahead.
Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride and organising us.
The Corona virus, what virus? Nothing stops fit and healthy Windmillers from getting out on a ride, but we were not to know that Andrew would soon be the first to self-isolate having been evacuated from his ski resort near Turin following a total shut down of Italy. So, taking The Bull by the horns six Windmillers comprising Maurice, Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin gathered at Langley Lower Green for a pleasant ride around quiet and dry lanes.
This is where we went, clockwise:
This week there was an equal number of e-bikes to traditional bikes but e-bikers are generally very considerate of their hard pedalling companions, with Rod always at the back as a sweeper upper. A few tow ropes would have come in handy too, particularly on the climb to Great Chishill.
The weather was kind and so we made good progress to Elmdon and beyond, stopping for a breather at Catmere End where a large herd of deer was spotted munching away on tasty young oil seed rape:
Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end of the ride whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a pint with the locals around the bar. Charles left a bit earlier to go Scottish Country dancing. Martin claimed he was still going to Les Gets on Thursday and would miss Maurice’s birthday party ride which prompted Maurice to buy him a pint. But having cancelled the trip on Wednesday Maurice generously bought him another pint on Thursday. Good chap!
Here’s a little ditty I’ve composed that we might all sing along to on our future rides, using the music and some of the lyrics from the TV Corona advertisements of the 50s, which some of us vulnerable people might remember. It goes like this:
There’s not a lot to celebrate at present what with the Corona virus spreading like wildfire, the stock market crashing and jobs at risk. But it was great that 13 Windmillers were able to gather together, fit and able, to celebrate Maurice’s 76th birthday and to join him on a windy day around windy lanes (geddit?), and for another 5 to join us at lunch time. The thought of Pat’s pies and curries at the Pig and Abbott in Abington Piggotts and a birthday pint from Maurice was an added incentive, and having coffee and biscuits before setting off is always a bonus.
Sadly, we were without Andrew who was in enforced self-isolation for 2 weeks with Lindsey having had their skiing holiday curtailed in Sestriere in Northern Italy due to the Corona virus. So it was Ken, Rod, Ric, Roger, Simon T, Deborah, Graham, Geoff, Howard, Charles, Mike, David and Martin (having cancelled his ski holiday) who accompanied Maurice on a delightful if somewhat blowy day around the lanes to the north west of Abington Piggotts, a cunning route devised by Maurice to reduce the impact of the wind as much as possible.
This is where most of us went, clockwise, but some decided to cut the corner off to get to the coffee stop at Waresley first, either because they were out front and hadn’t read the map or because they were in need of an urgent caffeine fix, or both:
Some of the strongest wind was experienced soon after the start whilst heading towards Steeple Morden from Litlington, and so an early stop at the Memorial for the 355th Fighter Group provided welcome relief:
Continuing on, things soon improved after Steeple Morden as we headed north west towards Cockayne Hatley where another stop was made to take in the view:
Then it was back into the wind for a stretch towards Potton – Mind The Gap being the order of the day due to the strong gusts in between hedgerows – before getting some relief towards Gamlingay, where sensible types cut the corner and got to the coffee stop first. The others had a short monster hill to climb but were rewarded with a long downwind freewheel stretch that seemed to last for about a mile before entering Waresley.
The coffee stop was the excellent Waresley Garden Centre, but like all garden centres these days it is quite difficult to find the gardening department………
Maurice already had thoughts of lunch in mind and so the order was given to saddle up and pedal on, passing picturesque Hatley St. George on the way and making generally easier progress. Almost bang on time at 12.30pm and almost exactly on 30 miles (how does he do it?) we rolled into The Pig and Abbott where the fire was roaring and where it was good to be joined by Brian, who had cycled over from Cambridge, Vernon, Simon O, John B and Bernard York, an old friend of Maurice with whom he cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats. It was good to hear from John about the progress of his recent hip operation, but trying to persuade John of the merits of e-bikes proved to be somewhat difficult.
A toast was also proposed by Rod to our absent friend, Andrew, who no doubt will be soon be giving us tips on how to survive two weeks of self-isolation – shooting pigeons appears to be one of his survival tips.
Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride, buying the drinks, and organising us all. Also thanks to Ken for taking a photo and Brian for the lunchtime pics. And congratulations to the usual hardy types, Graham and Ric, for riding to and from the meeting point, clocking up many more miles in the process.
PS. If you haven’t already joined the new Windmill Club WhatsApp group, you’re missing out on easy communications between members and some fine humour. Download the app and ask Andrew to add your mobile phone number.
The morning had started fair, twelve Windmillers exiting the Golden Fleece car park heading for Clavering. But poor old Maurice suffered an early setback when the e-part of his e-bike gave up the ghost and he was forced to return to the pub leaving us at the mercy of Andrew – who assured us he knew the route. We looked at our feet, “Mmmm, we’ll see.”
We needn’t have worried. We suspect he made it up as he went along but Andrew’s route, while distinctly wiggly, took us along quiet lanes in picturesque countryside.
Sixteen miles in, we pulled up for refreshments at Poppy’s Barn, our first visit to this little gem of a tea room in the middle of nowhere; the tiny hamlet of Butt’s Green being the nearest habitation. The coffee and cake were exceedingly good and Graham spoke highly of the hot chocolate with marshmallow topping.
We may have been cosy in Poppy’s but outside the weather had taken a turn for the worst; steady rain. Exiting the tearoom, we huddled under the barn eaves, donning oilskins and sou’westers while we contemplated our options. Go back inside and eat more cake? Send Sandra on alone to fetch her van? She didn’t like that idea at all. Resolute, we mounted our dripping wet bikes and – heads down – pedalled the 10 miles or so back to the pub.
Landlord Peter gave us a warm welcome and served up an excellent lunch; we particularly enjoyed his pie and a pint fare.
For the record, the 12 hardy Windmillers gently steaming in the Golden Fleece were: Maurice, Deborah, Andrew, Nigel, Ken, Martin, Sandra, Graham, Victor, Rod, Lawrence and Brian.
Despite the weather it was a very enjoyable outing. Many thanks to Andrew for improvising such a good route. Let’s do it again on a fine day.
Outnumbered by the e-bikes of Maurice, Rod and Nick, Andrew and Martin had to pedal extra hard to keep up with them on this ride around wet lanes. But would they get their comeuppance whilst traversing deep puddles and fords, we wondered? Would they short out? But no, e-bikes are clearly designed to withstand anything the English weather can throw at them and so they ploughed through regardless. It was only those wearing non-waterproof shoes who really suffered.
The weather has been particularly unkind to The Windmill Club on recent Mondays and Thursdays – perhaps members have been sinning more than usual? The poor old Essex fields had given up trying to soak up all the rain and so the ditches and streams were full to the brim with water, overflowing onto the roads in many places. But at least it had stopped raining for a while which enabled us to get out on our bikes and enjoy the sunshine.
The first wave of water to ride through was shortly after starting off from The Bull at Langley Lower Green whilst riding up the hill to Upper Green. Maurice, sporting a smart new pair of Schwalbe Marathons which Andrew had acquired for a bargain price, wanted to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering which some of us had visited the previous Thursday and although it was closed it was agreed that we would fit it into a Thursday ride as a coffee stop. Thereafter it was a question of dodging the puddles and fords whenever possible or cruising through them with legs raised in the air.
This is where we went:
The local chap in the above photograph turned out to be a keen cyclist who rode with another club which averaged around 16mph. He said discreetly that The Windmill Club was perhaps not for him!
Nick peeled off towards Meesden whilst the others proceeded to The Bull to chew the cud over some fine beers, but taking care not to share any nuts in case the Corona Man had got there before us.
Thanks to Maurice for leading the way and to Andrew for organising us, and for the photos.
Another week of cold and windy weather which resulted in Monday’s ride on 24 February not taking place also produced a morning of snow on this late February day.
Word was circulated by email and WhatsApp that the ride due to set off from The Red Cow at Chrishall was cancelled but with fine weather forecasted for later in the morning some brave souls besides Graham (Andrew, Ken, Ric, Charles and Martin), also decided to wend their way uphill to work up an appetite for lunch, and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.
The riders were joined by Simon T, Rod, Neil, Simon O, Brummie Brian and John B, who surprised us all with his appearance just 4 weeks after his hip operation. Here we all are enjoying a good lunch:
John told us that he had been driving a car for the past two weeks and walking the dogs across the fields without a stick, let alone crutches. Probably all against doctor’s orders, but that’s John for you. Well done, John, and we look forward to seeing you on your bike again soon, perhaps an e-bike to start with?
The sun was shining by now and so after bidding the others farewell, Ric and Charles made their own way home whilst Andrew, Ken, Graham and Martin set off down the hill to the Wendens Ambo – Great Chishill road. Ken peeled off at the junction whilst the others proceeded up to Builden End and continued on the byway towards Langley Lower Green and then to Upper Green in order to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering as a future coffee stop. And a fine place it turned out to be. Then it was on to Arkesden and over the hill towards Wendens Ambo where Andrew peeled off leaving Graham and Martin to climb Hill Bastardo with a fresh breeze coming off the open fields which at times assisted and other times hindered our efforts to return to Ickleton via Catmere End, clocking up 20 miles in all.
Thanks to Andrew for organising the lunch and enabling us to make the most of the day.
Storms Ciara and Dennis have wreaked their havoc recently, resulting in several ride cancellations. But try as they might, Ciara and Dennis failed to prevent Windmillers from getting together to enjoy a good lunch at the Fleur de Lys in Widdington.
Despite the weather, Geoff e-biked over from Saffron Walden and it was also good to have Simon O join us for a drink. Conversations ranged from cars (nothing new there), summer rides in Scotland, France and Norfolk, the exploits of a group of mad cyclists called The Rough-Stuff Fellowship, and, once again, how best to split timber into logs. Simon O thought that Ken had been in a fight but Ken’s recent skin treatment seemed to be proceeding well.
Sandra would have loved this ride. Not since she led us through puddles galore a couple of years ago have we seen anything remotely comparable until this ride. And it was windy too at times which Sandra would have enjoyed even more! So it was Mucky Maurice and Donald the Ducky Dawg who were instead jointly responsible for leading just seven Windmillers through deep puddles, streams and fords as we navigated our way through the lanes to Thaxted and back, starting from the Fleur de Lys in Widdington.
This is where we went, the southerly route out and the northerly route back:
The weather had not been kind since Storm Ciara hit the UK a few days back and with Storm Dennis on the way it was not surprising that we had quite a small turnout for a Thursday. But, luckily, we found a window of relatively quiet weather and no rain which resulted in a very pleasant ride with blue skies at times, even if it meant cruising through the puddles with legs raised in the air to avoid getting a soaking.
Accompanying Maurice and Andrew were Roger, Lawrence, Graham, Nigel and Martin. Besides the mega thorn which Lawrence had plucked from his front tyre, he also discovered his speed down the steep hill from Widdington towards Elsenham to be faster than intended due to his rear brake not working. A stop in Henham soon established that the problem was due to gunge in the mechanism and a few quick tweaks of the handle soon got it going again.
Despite the detritus on the roads there were no other mishaps or punctures, and so we made steady progress towards Thaxted where excellent coffee and cakes were consumed in Parrishes.
The return trip was uneventful, and shorter, but involved a pleasant detour up to Little Henham before climbing back up the steep hill to Widdington where it was good to be joined for lunch by Ken, Charles and Brian, Ken having cycled over from Ickleton. Graham also cycled to and from Ickleton and claimed to have already clocked up over 700 miles in 2020 so far!
Back at base
The contest for the muckiest man at the end of the ride was won by Roger followed closely by Andrew.
Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for both planning an identical ride, Andrew for his organisation and the Strava map, and Brian for the lunch time pic.
Brummie Brian always comes up with an interesting ride when called upon which usually results in a good turnout, and today was no exception. In addition there was the added bonus of it being Martin’s belated birthday booze ride, which he seems to have been celebrating for nearly a month since first cracking open a bottle to celebrate his ‘free’ ski pass on 12 January. Not exactly free as it turned out but €52 for a season ain’t bad. Canny Ken, on the other hand, wangled a 2 week pass free of charge and was told he could renew it for further periods also foc …..
Enough of skiing. Assembling at Brian’s local in Stapleford, The Three Horseshoes, (a former drug dealing centre it seems but Brian claims that’s not the reason that he, Tom and Chris have met there regularly over the years………..) the Windmill gang that controls the cycle county lines of North Essex, North Herts and South Cambs also comprised Andrew, Sandra, Rod, Roger, Tom, Simon T, Graham, Ric, Howard, Victor, Yorkie Brian, Neil and Martin, making 14 in all. Waving them off was Chris, who promised to return back at lunchtime.
This is where Brian’s route took us on this glorious day, albeit a bit chilly to start with at just 1°C:
Warning us that it was around 22 miles to the coffee stop at Wimpole Hall, Brian led the way via a short stretch of the Sawston By-Pass and then through to Whittlesford via the bike path, crossing the railway line miraculously all together (our recent luck must run out soon). There was very little wind and so we proceeded at a steady pace and gradually felt warm glows appearing on our extremities. No punctures or other unforeseen eventualities either but there seemed to be a race for the coffee queue as we approached Wimpole resulting in a few missing out on the ritual pic in front of the Hall:
In Orwell we stopped to take a call from Ken who was in the vicinity and who sensibly remained on the top of Barrington hill as we crawled up it about 15 minutes later. That made us 15 which meant continuing to cycle in two groups spread apart to allow motorists and other road users to overtake us fairly easily. Indeed, not a horn was noticed all day!
Tom and Victor bid us farewell on returning to The Three Horseshoes and Chris and Geoff joined us, making us 15 once again for an excellent lunch washed down with a fine selection of beers, including JHB which we believe is a favourite of John Bagrie? John’s hip operation had gone well the previous week and although a quick return trip to the hospital was necessary he was now getting around on his crutches. We all wished him well and hoped we would be seeing him again soon.
Thanks to Brian for a great ride and for arranging such splendid weather. Also to Andrew for all his organisation.
It was good to be back at The Bull, Lower Langley, for a Monday ride even though a 3.00pm start meant that it was a bit gloomy towards the end. But opening time is an all important consideration and The Bull does not open until 5.00pm, and so it was lights blazing as Andrew, Rod, Charles, Nick and Martin cruised around the lanes.
Nick was the proud owner of a flashy new Cannondale e-bike which looked the part with its drop handlebars and which had a fine turn of speed. Charles, Andrew and Martin had trouble keeping up with him and Rod, and planned to secretly hitch tow ropes on them in future. This is where we went:
Heading firstly towards Little Chishill we took a right towards Builden End up a well surfaced track which Rod and Martin did in the opposite direction a few weeks back – a very useful short cut to / from Chrishall and beyond, and a popular place for Charles to walk his dogs. Thereafter it was up to Chrishall and through Elmdon towards Ickleton, turning right to Strethall Crossroads, until we spied a familiar figure jogging towards us at a steady pace – Simon Oughton – who was on a circuit from Elmdon via the woods between there and Catmere End. Stopping for a chat resulted in a very generous invitation from Simon for us to call in and have a beer any time we are passing. Thanks, Simon, I’m sure we’ll soon take you up on that!
Passing Simon T’s house in Littlebury Green we were soon descending at speed down to the Wendens Ambo road where we took a left and then a right up the timed course for cyclists towards Arkesden, which we achieved in around 8 minutes compared to the fastest time by a competitor recently of just 2 minutes. It was very noticeable how much water there was in the stream running alongside the road opposite the Axe and Compasses, which is usually dry.
By this time it wasn’t exactly dark but we were grateful to have good lights whilst mums were on their school runs whizzing around the lanes. Nick’s back light was particularly penetrating despite its size. Perfect timing saw us back at The Bull just as the door was opening, where the usual warm welcome was received and a good natter had with the regulars.
Due to some bloggers being on holiday or otherwise indisposed, it has not been possible to record all of our January rides in the usual visual and descriptive manner. However, Andrew has provided a list of those rides not already kindly blogged by Brian:
13 Jan Anstey 22 miles
20 Jan Thriplow 20 miles
27 Jan ride cancelled
9 Jan Therfield. Victors Birthday ride 31 miles
16 Jan Braughing to Ware 30 miles
February should see us back to our usual routine. In the meantime, our new book ‘The Windmill Club – our 2019 rides’ makes interesting bedtime reading and much amusement on these cold and dark winter days:
Thursday morning saw nine Windmillers – Maurice, Andrew, Nigel, Victor, Rod, Graham, Ken, Howard and Brian – set off from the Fleur de Lys for an excursion to East Hertfordshire where Nigel had invited us to his place for coffee. So it was that after an hour and a half’s peddling we pulled into the delightful village of Bury Green, where he and Sue have lived for some 35 years, restoring the house, raising a family and sharing their lives with various motorbikes, donkeys and horses.
We were admiring Nigel’s workshop – with its in-floor hydraulic lift, vast collection of tools and some very shiny motorbikes – when the aroma of fresh cake drew us towards the kitchen and Sue’s baked treats. After four slices of buttered tea loaf Brian was seen struggling to get back on his bike – and there were reports that Andrew had similarly overindulged on Sue’s excellent shortbread. We can’t wait to tell Keith what he’s missed.
The return leg – via the Pelhams and Rickling Green – passed uneventfully and we made good time back to the Fleur for lunch and a few beers at our usual table by the fire.
A very big thanks to Sue and Nigel for their hospitality. Also Maurice and Andrew for planning everything.