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.
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.
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:
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:
Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to Graham, Charles and others who contributed photos – keep ’em coming.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.)
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:
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:
Thanks go as usual to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride. Where would we be without those heroes?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Approaching Great Hormead, Graham and Julia were coming the other way, which provided yet another war memorial photo:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
‘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:
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.
Remember this opening song by Millicent Martin for David Frost’s weekly satirical programme? (Apologies, BBC, for substituting Year for Week). It seems to sum up what we have endured in 2020.
But it did start well, didn’t it? Except for Brian who had two punctures, one in each wheel, on the first ride on 2nd January. There was also speculation that day as to what might lie in the year ahead – would Deborah buy some mudguards, would Andrew stop banging on about Schwalbe Marathons? Harmless stuff like that but no mention of what would hit the world later that month when the Corona virus started to spread in China, Italy and Austrian ski resorts. On 6th January, Rod had a nasty fall on a slippery road resulting in a cracked helmet and a bent bike but Sandra came to his rescue in her van and scooped him up. He was a bit bruised but luckily nothing else was broken. Brian’s birthday was celebrated on the 24th at The Black Bull in Balsham and on the 30th nine Windmillers inspected Nigel’s immaculate motorbike workshop and stuffed themselves silly on Sue’s buttered tea loaf and shortbread.
On 6th February we had a great turnout, as above, for a ride to Wimpole on a beautiful day. But it wasn’t long afterwards that storms Ciara and Dennis resulted in cancelled rides and the formation of the Windmill Dining Club to ensure we kept our local publicans happy.
It remained very wet, which was just a precursor of the real storm that was about to hit us hard, the dreaded Corona virus. By 12th March the virus was spreading rapidly, people were dying, stock markets were crashing, unemployment was rising, Andrew was self-isolating after an abandoned ski trip to Italy, and all this when we were meant to be celebrating Maurice’s birthday! But we carried on, not really knowing what was in store, and enjoyed a lovely Springwatch ride with Sandra on 16th March when her eagle eye spotted a barn owl, a large herd of deer including some Albinos and, God forbid, a strange looking hi-viz clad person ahead of us standing on a bank and coughing furiously. It turned out to be Andrew taking some exercise during his self isolation and so we gave him a wide berth.
And then on 19th March the bombshell hit us. No more rides! Hibernation time for The Windmill Club! Deaths galore! Panic buying! The end is nigh! Suddenly, we had to adapt, quickly, if we were to remain sane. Owing to the club being affiliated to Cycling UK, the first thing was to stop organising group rides. But exercise outdoors was allowed and so Windmillers continued to ride individually and occasionally we bumped into each other. This happened with increasing frequency which led to the idea of creating a circuit and inviting members to join the circuit near to where they lived, some going clockwise and some anti-clockwise. This was quite legitimate under the Government’s rules and thus heralded what became known as CAC rides which continue to this day. The first one took place on 1 April and resulted in £80 being raised for the charities we support and a stop for refreshments at the end of Maurice’s long driveway, plus the recording of times for the circuit, suitably judged by Howard. The fastest time was set by Graham who did the circuit in 1 hour 49 minutes and 15 seconds.
The Windmill Club did indeed go into hibernation. The WhatsApp group name was changed to Cycle Mates and it was soon swamped with Corona virus jokes and stories like this:
And this from yours truly to encourage members to wash their hands:
Blogs also stopped as we had to show that we were obeying all the rules but unofficial CAC rides took off big time and money poured into the charity box which was hosted at various places throughout April – £93 on the 9th, when Graham was first again, £95 on the 16th, £153 on the 23rd and £85 on the 30th, making a grand total of £984 by the end of April.
During April, Brian started a wonderful series of Windmillers of the Day which included Andrew, Vernon, Sandra, Charles, Keith, Deborah, Chris, John, Lawrence, Ken, Howard, Roger, Geoff, Tom, Graham, Simon, Rod, Nigel, myself and Maurice, before he ran out of photographs from previous blogs. Finally, Brian was created Windmiller of the Day by Andrew. Here’s the gang:
May rides continued in CAC style, with the magnificent sum of £170 being raised on 14 May, when toy windmills were also distributed for attachment to bikes so that Windmillers could be recognised amongst the hoards of other cyclists on the roads. On 26 May, Graham decided to climb the hills around Ickleton in one day enough times to at least equal the 1,600 metres he would have climbed had he been allowed to climb Mont Ventoux that day. In the event he climbed the equivlent of a trip from the seaside to Avoriaz at 1,810 metres! Well done, Graham.
June saw the easing of restrictions at long last and groups of 6 were allowed to cycle together. The blog re-emerged on 1st June when Simon described a rock hard off road route devised by Andrew after a month of no rain which shook 6 Windmillers and their bikes to bits, including Rod falling off in the last half mile, luckily only slightly battered. By 25 June, it was really blazing as 19 Windmillers descended on Wimpole Hall for coffee, all at different times and socially distanced of course.
June also saw the creation by Brian of an easier to remember URL for the blog- http://www.thewindmillclub.org . Is this the reason for a massive increase in visitors and views from many more countries this year?
July started with a memorial ride for Victor’s wife, Rose, who sadly passed away a few weeks back. This created an opportunity to have a special fund raising day resulting in a club record of £440 which Maurice proposed topping up to £500 from club funds and making a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care. It was then topped up by a further £100 from Victor making a grand sum of £600. The day was notable also for a summer footwear parade, Charles winning narrowly in his fancy shoes and socks from Suzanne in her shocking pink / rich plum trainers.
Thoughts of croissants, coffee and Calvados started on Rod’s birthday ride on 10 July as three of the French contingent, Andrew, Simon and I, had a warm up ride with 9 other Windmillers before a socially distanced lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. But Andrew and Simon couldn’t resist really getting in the mood:
So it was early on 13 July that Andrew, Simon, Lawrence and I departed in 2 cars plus bikes for Newhaven, having had to make last minute changes to our itinerary due to our ferry to St Malo being cancelled. But all went well, we had good weather throughout and stayed and ate at some nice places, demolishing platters of seafood at every opportunity. Andrew was our guide for the Normandy beach tour and we also stopped to pay our respects at the memorial to our Windmill friend Kell Ryan, who was well known in the area.
The fine weather continued throughout July and into August when rides were still allowed in groups of up to six people, making it seem almost like the old days and being able to go further afield too, to places like West Stow, Long Melford and Lavenham. Rain and thunderstorms at last arrived to water the garden, and Windmillers, but that didn’t stop Windmillers from venturing out. The rain is at least warm in August.
September got off to a bad start on the 3rd for Andrew having had a puncture and a hornet attack him on the same day whilst on a ride around Stevenage. But the highlight of the day was the arrival at The Rising Sun in Halls Green of Vernon and his wife Moira for lunch, Vernon having introduced as to The Rising Sun a few years back. He was in good form but not fit enough for a ride. He had however been playing a mean round of golf in previous weeks, to which I can testify.
With the holiday period over, rides got going with a vengeance during the remainder of September. On the 10th, after a pleasant ride from the hamlet of Fuller Street, down to Heyford Basin and Maldon, Mike suddenly lurched to his feet during lunch with a swelling the size of a rugby ball in one of his legs. 999 or rush him immediately to hospital in Chelmsford? The latter course of action was considered to be much quicker given the pressure on the NHS and Deborah offered to do just that. He was soon attended to and discharged later that day, just as well as he was on a climbing expedition in France the following week!
Valentines’ Day re-emerged 7 months late on 14th September when Deborah jumped off her bike on a warm sunny evening and dived into a field of glorious wild flowers.
A week later it was Maurice’s turn to pick flowers for Lynn but some Windmillers got a bit worried about this show of affection for me and vice versa:
What started as a bad month for Andrew ended as one too when he developed a bad case of food poisoning which laid him low for a couple of weeks. He reported having lost 10 pounds quite quickly which, as Simon quipped, was quite a lot of money for a Scotsman to lose! So we missed his cheerful company whilst a wet and stormy end to September heralded a more restrictive October, following much the same pattern as earlier in the year. Eureka moment! Storms = surge in cases of corona virus. Banish storms! Banish the virus! Your views, please, Prof Simon.
The really sad news at the end of September was that our good friend and colleague Vernon Gamon died on the 27th, less than a month after joining us for lunch at The Rising Sun and after a long and courageous battle with liver cancer. He was upbeat and stoic right to the end, even to the extent of buying himself a new car in recent weeks. Ken and I were proud to represent The Windmill Club and the Gog Magog Golf Club at his funeral on 12th October at a natural burial site in deepest Leicestershire.
Vernon never forgave me for padlocking my bike to his in Steeple Bumpstead on my first outing with The Windmill Club and forgetting to bring the key. ‘What a plonker’, I heard him say. ‘Whoever invited this nutcase?’
Simon’s October got off to a bad start on the 1st with a major error of route on the return leg of Ken’s ride to Graffham Water when he opted to explore the dual carriageway of the A1 north of Buckden followed by a zig zag route to avoid the new A14 whilst navigating back to base at The White Swan at Conington, by which time lunch was over. He’s been singing the 1961 Dion hit They call me the wanderer ever since. To make matters worse his car would not start but a helpful lady produced some jump leads which did the trick.
Covid-19 cases started to rise again by mid-October which meant The Windmill Club had to get creative again to cope with the popularity of our rides. So on the 15th Geoff and Brian came up with the idea of 3 groups of 6, one of which would use The Three Hills at Bartlow as their base whilst the other two used The Black Bull at Balsham, but all doing the same route in different directions. This worked out well except for a few unrelated hiccups such as Rod having a glancing blow collision with a big lorry on the way to the start and Lawrence having an involuntary dismount at a busy road junction. It also rained hard on one group just as they recognised the lone figure of John Bagrie heading in the opposite direction. It was great to see John again and to have him join us for lunch.
Deborah very kindly provided vast quantities of mushrooms and apples on the 19th on a ride when Maurice was determined to show off on his e-bike leaving others trailing behind who then took a different route, but all met up eventually at The Red Cow and enjoyed a pint outside. On the 22nd there were punctures galore, Martin’s being particularly time consuming and expensive to repair but not as expensive as Maurice’s puncture on his car.
Lockdown recommenced on 2 November which meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for the 5th, which will now be held at a future date. Instead, CAC rides came to the rescue with Windmillers allowed to cycle singly or in pairs. And the lovely early November weather made it seem more bearable, although we felt sorry for the farmers who had no market for pumpkins this year:
Autumnwatch rides were a treat for the naturists, sorry naturalists, amongst us, the highlight being 10 red kites seen circling together by Jenni and Deborah in Anstey on 20 November. Large herds of deer were also spotted amongst the splendid autumn colours:
But by the end of November it was pretty cold, wet, murky and muddy. Brian had a bad day on the 19th having to endure wet weather, a puncture and a bad back all at the same time and the conditions had a strange effect on Simon who, cycling alone at the time, decided to compose the first of an anthology of poems about pigeons. Here it is which could perhaps be set to music and sung in a punk style:
There were eight pigeons on that wire
In spring they ate all my apple-tree buds
Some birds I ‘ate because they are destructive (and don’t sing)
As a convicted multiple murderer of pigeons
Unrepentant, I will scratch on my cell wall
I ‘ate, the eight fat pigeons I ‘ate
And I don’t care
Keep ’em coming Simon!
In the absence of our traditional Christmas lunch when Maurice announces the distribution of the money we have raised for various charities, 26th November became the focus for this year’s announcement. And what a phenomenal amount we have managed to raise – £4,737 as at 26 November which was generously topped up by Maurice by a further £300 to make a grand total of £5,037. The distribution was as follows:
Marie Curie Cancer Appeal: £500, in memory of Rose Humberstone
Arthur Rank Hospice: £500, in memory of Victor
East Anglia Childrens’ Hospice: £1,000
Eve Cancer Appeal: £1,000
The Samaritans: £1,000, in recognition of the amazing work that Deborah does for this charity
Pets as Therapy: £500, in recognition of the work that Charles and Fiona do for this charity with their dogs
Addenbrookes Charitable Trust: £150
December started very cold, wet and windy as three intrepid Windmillers, Alan, Mike and Graham, found to their cost on 3rd December. Most Windmillers decided wisely to buff their candlesticks instead and check that their Christmas lights were still working.
Flooded roads, low temperatures, mud, murk and punctures were now de rigueur for the rest of December. The 10th marked a striking contrast between the haves and the have nots amongst Windmillers. The haves, including Graham, Mike, Geoff, Deborah and Ken smirked contentedly inside the warmth of Poppy’s Barn as they tucked into their coffees, cakes and, in Deborah’s case, a full English breakfast, whilst the have nots comprising Brian, Lawrence, Simon, Victor and myself were forced to sit outside in the freezing cold and wait ages for their coffee whilst also being told off at regular intervals by the smartly dressed waitress for leaving our bikes and items of clothing in the wrong places. Whipped cream coffee was strangely not on the menu.
The 10th was also notable for punctures of all kinds. Gallant Howard firstly came to the assistance of an Ugley lady (actually, she was rather nice!) whose car had got a puncture but after half an hour of trying with only a can of sealant to do the job, he had to give up and the lady was left calling her son. Subsequent Windmillers offered help too and she said what a nice bunch we were! Then both Victor and Brian had punctures on their return leg home, Victor just managing to get there whilst a near-frozen Brian was whisked up by me and returned home by car.
The Christmas spirit was already flowing at Maurice’s on 14 December when Windmillers appeared at suitably spaced intervals to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine. And yet another puncture happened when Suzanne picked up a difficult to locate thorn which required her chief mechanic Graham to diligently find and repair.
The final ride of the year took place on 17th December on a nice sunny day but still with wet and muddy roads at times. Another £100 was raised which will go into the 2021 pot for distribution.
Thanks galore are due to Maurice and Andrew for all their planning and organisation during the year and to those who hosted the charity box and provided refreshments whilst our CAC rides took place. Thanks also to fellow bloggers Brian, Simon and Graham. But, above all, we should thank every member for participating and being so generous during what has been one of the most challenging of years. We have managed to stay safe and healthy whilst at the same time having fun and raising a substantial amount for our chosen charities. WELL DONE ALL!
And now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the summary and prizegiving!
The longest distance prize
First prize Graham with an astonishing 13,458km. Second Rod – 3,256 miles. Third Andrew – 3,049 miles. Fourth Brian – 3, 040 miles (beaten by Andrew by just 9 miles)
The puncture prize
One each recorded by Maurice, Andrew, Martin, Deborah, Alan, Roger, Victor and Suzanne
Four recorded by Brian (yes four!) and so the prize goes equally to him and to Martin, who caused the most loss of time and cost on 22nd October – two exploding tubes, one exploding pump and two discharged CO2 cylinders.
The e-bike breakdown prize
When they go wrong, e-bikes are not the easiest of bikes to repair. Maurice’s gave up the ghost on 5 March, Geoff had problems with his gear control and Rod waited several weeks for a wheel repair before finally getting it sorted by a local chap. The prize goes to Rod.
The involuntary dismount prize
Unfortunately, there were several involuntary dismounts involving Rod on 6th January and again on 1st June, Graham on 5th July, Roger and Alan both on 16th July, Lindsay in March, Lawrence on 15th October and Charles on 26th November. The prize goes to Graham for a particularly spectacular fall on a gravelly junction, witnessed only by himself, which put him out of action for a while.
The dodgy bike prize
Bits fell off Simon’s bike on 23rd July, Andrew’s filthy chain again needed mending due to a dodgy link and Lawrence’s rear disc brake needed repairing on a trip to Aldeburgh. Andrew has won it several times in the past and so this year the prize goes to Simon.
The dodgy car prize
Having had a dodgy battery on two occasions, needing jump cables from Andrew in Upper Langley and also from a helpful lady in The White Swan at Conington, there is only one candidate for this prize. It also goes to Simon.
The getting lost prize
Maurice took a wrong turning on 10th September but found a £20 note whilst doing a U-turn, and then got properly lost towards the end of the ride when he and Howard strayed off route, Lindsay got lost on 21st September, Deborah couldn’t even find the start on 1st October having got lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire, but Simon got lost on 15th June and then again, big time (see above) on 1st October. So the prize goes to Simon. Well done – a hatrick!
The Good Samaritan prize
Sandra came to the rescue of Rod on 6th January, Victor and Brian helped another cyclist on 12th November, Howard came to the aid of a damsel in distress with a puncture in a wheel of her car (see above) but Deborah is the clear winner because of the amazing work she does for The Samaritans (often appearing for a ride with blurry eyes having done a night shift) and for rushing Mike to hospital in Chelmsford on 1st October.
The Mucky Pup prize
This goes to Roger for spoiling his smart new jacket on 13th February, closely followed by Andrew in second place. Roger wins a framed print of this pic:
The Springwatch / Autumnwatch prize
Alan spotted a fine looking stag on 26th October, Ken / Martin spotted a large herd of deer on 5th November (but there were probably countless other sightings not recorded) and Jenni / Deborah witnessed 10 Red Kites circling over Anstey – a fine display. Sandra’s spot of the barn owl in March was awesome but the prize goes to Jenni / Deborah jointly.
The longest ride to the start prize
Graham, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Geoff and Suzanne all have long rides to the start points, unless they use their cars of course. The prize goes to Brian.
The road rage prize
We try to be courteous to motorists at all times but the opposite does not always apply. Andrew had a run-in with a Volvo driver in Long Melford on 6th August and also with an angry lady in Upper Langley who asked him, not very politely, to not park outside her house. Rod also had an incident when riding his e-bike. The prize goes to Andrew who handles such situations very diplomatically.
The dapper dresser prize
No competition this year. Who could compete with Charles with his snazzy stripey socks, fancy shoes and Christmas jumper? The prize goes to Charles.
The poet of the year prize
No competition. The outright winner is Simon.
The Zoom prize
Again, no competition. The winner is Graham who we should thank heartily for setting up many post-ride Zoom meetings throughout the year
Other facts and figures
Prior to lockdown, birthdays were celebrated for Brian, Victor, Martin and Maurice. Thereafter we celebrated Rod’s on 10th July, Deborah’s on 16th July, Howard’s on 23rd July, Charles’s on 6th August and Lawrence’s on 26th November.
John Bagrie had a hip operation early in the year from which he made a rapid recovery and was soon walking / cycling, including a week’s walking in the Lake District with Ken and Lawrence in early September.
Simon had a hernia operation from which he also recovered quickly, although it was somewhat worrying on one of his first rides to Ware that he reported having one black one and one white one. He’s in the pink now, that’s for sure.
Keith had an operation on his neck which had been giving him trouble for some time. We hope to see him out and about with us soon.
Andrew got stung badly by a hornet on 3rd September and had a nasty bout of food poisoning later that month but recovered well from both.
Mike was rushed to hospital in Chelmsford by Deborah on 10th September with a large leg swelling caused by a pedal bursting a blood vessel. He was released later in the day and was climbing mountains in France the following week.
On this sombre final note, we lost one of best loved members, Vernon Gamon. RIP.
PS. If there are any errors or omissions they are all my fault. Let me know if anthing needs to be put right.
Charles’s house in Chrishall was the focal point for this last CAC ride on a Thursday before Christmas, and what a treat there was in store for the Windmillers who took part. The sun shone, the birds sang and everything seemed right in the world, except for Covid-19 and Brexit of course but we could at least forget those for a few pleasurable hours in the saddle.
Feeling a bit idle, Martin took his car to Chrishall overtaking Brian and Ken on the way and egging them on with shouts of ‘Allez allez’ through his open window. Many others rode to their start point too, putting Martin (and Simon) to shame. Rod also drove to Chrishall but was let off as he had much longer to get to the circuit and also was still without his e-bike. Brian had started from Great Shelford, Ric from Harston, Howard, Geoff, Deborah and Jenni from Saffron Walden, whilst Graham and Mike did their own thing and took a roundabout route from Ickleton via Newton and also managed a trip to Poppy’s Barn again. The prize for the furthest distance of the day probably goes to Brian.
In addition to the aforementioned, Maurice, Andrew, Roger and Alan also took part making 17 in all, a fantastic turnout. Here is the route taken:
With groups of up to six allowed under the regulations in force on the day, this enabled several small groups to ride together or to join up with others en route. Rod, Simon, Ken and Martin set off together in an AC direction and it wasn’t long before the familiar figure of Ric caught them up on the climb to Duddenhoe End. It was good to see him out again and to hear about what was going on in his garden.
After all the rain in recent days, the roads were inevitably wet and muddy, nowhere more so than between Albury and Farnham, and perhaps Violets Lane as well near Brent Pelham, but Rod’s group chickened out and decided not to even attempt Violets Lane which is notorious for mud and water at this time of year. Ken peeled off towards Clavering and home at that stage leaving the remaining four to continue their journey.
But the sun more than made up for the wet roads. It was just glorious and provided great opportunities for Simon to get creative once again with his photography.
Rounding a corner near Farnham two groups of Windmillers suddenly met and stopped for a socially distanced chat across the road:
Saying farewell to the other group, Rod’s group started to debate where coffee might be had. The Three Horseshoes at Hazel End looked dead to the world, The Yew Tree in Manuden likewise but thoughts then turned to The Cricketers in Rickling Green and hey presto, the lights were on and we received a very warm and efficient welcome as we ordered coffee for all and large slices of cake for Rod and Simon. Sitting outside was pleasantly dry and quite warm in the sun.
Arriving back at Charles’s, Rod’s group realised they had not seen many other riders – perhaps most were going in the same direction or was it because of stopping at The Cricketers? Deborah and Jenni were just departing and so the great display of puppy bonding by Deborah was sadly missed, but here’s a pic of the happy occasion:
The magnificent sum of £100 was raised for our charity fund.
Thanks to Maurice for planning the route, Andrew for his organisation, Charles for hosting the charity box and providing beers, refreshments and biscuits (much appreciated) and Graham for hosting the evening’s Zoom session. A good time was had by all.
An invitation from Maurice to munch mince pies and wash them down with mulled wine was warmly welcomed by nine Windmillers who stopped off at his house in small groups to enjoy his and Lynn’s kind hospitality. The pies and saucepans of wine kept coming in vast quantities.
Using a CAC route which took in Chrishall, Duddenhoe End, the Langleys, Meesden, Anstey, Barkway, Barley and Great Chishill, enabled Andrew, Charles, Alan, Rod, Nick, Simon, Graham, Suzanne and Martin to call in at steady intervals and to socially distance whilst there. Deborah was hoping to come too but had to pull out due to other commitments, including puppy love.
But not all went well at the start for Suzanne. Riding over from Abington and joining up with Graham and Martin in Ickleton, it wasn’t long before she suffered a puncture on the way to Elmdon and with just one tube available the chief mechanic, Graham, had to ensure that it was right first time. So the cause of the puncture required much forensic examination and it took some time and effort, not to mention the effort required to even detach the rear wheel, before a sliver of flint was discovered that had just penetrated the casing. Blowing the tyre up with a CO2 canister then blew the outer casing off the rim and so it was back to square one and a hand pump was used. Whilst all this was going on, Martin called Andrew to say we might be a wee bit late, Suzanne messaged him likewise and so once we got going again the best bet seemed to be to head direct to Maurice’s and get to the pies and the mulled wine before the others arrived.
Maurice had gone directly from Great Chishill to his house to greet the first visitors, who turned out to be Alan, Rod, Nick and Simon but they had all gone by the time Graham, Suzanne and Martin arrived, Alan reporting subsequently that he had beaten Maurice’s record of climbing from his house to the Barkway radio tower in time of just 9 over minutes or so. Well done Alan – let us know the exact time!
Luckily there were still some pies and wine left. Graham made a quick inspection of Maurice’s immaculate workshop and just as he, Suzanne and Martin were leaving, Andrew and Charles arrived having been circling clockwise. Charles looked particularly festive in his Christmas jumper which blended well with the Christmas decorations that Lynn had put up outside – see above. On the other hand, Martin looked somewhat garish in his new lemon yellow winter jacket from Decathlon.
Suzanne had a flu jab appointment later on in Sawston and so the combination of the puncture delay and a couple of helpings of mince pies and mulled wine (by Graham and Martin, not Suzanne) chief mechanic Graham and his deputy decided to accompany Suzanne back via Barkway, Great Chishill and Duxford to ensure the jab was delivered in time.
This is the time of year when contrasts are made with previous years. This is how it was on 14 December 2017:
Thanks, Maurice and Lynn, for the delicious mince pies and mulled wine and it was great to hear that we raised a further £80 for the charities we support. Let’s hope that December 2021 will see a return to real festivities!
Thursday was forecast to be cold and wet and windy and so it turned out. Many Windmillers, who had been keen for the ride the evening before, suddenly found a pressing need to buff their candlesticks on the day.
Nevertheless, three intrepid riders, Alan, Mike and Graham (or more likely, the three riders with no silverware to polish) congregated at Simon’s in Littlebury Green and decided to ‘damn the torpedoes’ and go for it anyway. Simon had dutifully put the collection box out and a selection of beers for later, under a carefully tethered umbrella.
Riding as permitted group of 3, the excellent, if bumpy, course mercifully passed without incident – other than for the creeping coldness and dampness. Alan departed for home at Langley and Graham and Mike found some socially distanced solace in the warmth of Poppys Barn tearoom.
By the time they returned to Littlebury Green (with no intention of stopping for a cool beer), the collection box and beers had already been safely taken in !
Take a look at last week’s blog and compare the difference! OK, last week’s photo of Elmdon church was taken at 12.55pm and this one at 3.25pm but what a difference in the weather. Gone are the bright blue skies and suddenly Christmas is upon us with a tree all lit up outside the church. And the roads are murky and muddy – as traditional as Christmas itself.
There were some doubts expressed about whether or not to ride but Suzanne led the way by cycling over from Abington and then WhatsApping from Elmdon to encourage the doubters to give it a try. And so after a faltering start there were seven Windmillers in all who took part, the others being Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Graham, Deborah and Martin.
The route was a reverse of last Monday’s CAC ride, so no need to repeat the map here. Graham, Suzanne and Martin started AC from Elmdon, suitably socially distanced as there can only be a max of two people cycling together, but it wasn’t long before they spotted a lone cyclist sporting smart stripy socks heading towards them. It could only be Charles and so at that point Martin did a U-turn and cycled with him clockwise whilst Graham and Suzanne continued AC towards Chrishall.
But luckily for Charles and Martin it wasn’t raining much – just a few spits and spots at the start and finish mixed with the mud from farm vehicles to make the roads slippery and to coat bikes, shoes and clothing in a fine layer of filth. Charles was wisely taking it very easy on sharp corners having had a spill the previous Thursday and suffering from bruises as a result. Maurice reported rain when he started at 12.50 and Deborah got wet after starting at 2.40, finishing in the dark and wishing she had started earlier.
Meetings took place between Charles and Martin with Maurice near Rickling and then with Andrew, Graham and Suzanne in Stocking Pelham, outside the rebuilt but unopened Cock Inn in Stocking Pelham, where a planning dispute has been going on for years following the previous Grade 2 listed building being burnt down.
Charles and Martin decided to give Violets Lane near Brent Pelham a miss as it is notoriously muddy but the others seemed happy to give it a go – they must just love wallowing in the stuff.
The homeward leg was uneventful and quiet as we just missed the school run and so no Volvos, Mercs or Beemers to contend with. Luckily no tractors either as we already had more than our fair share of mud. Saying farewell to Charles in Chrishall, thanking him for his kind offer of shelter, Martin carried on and having stopped at 3.25 in Elmdon to take the photo of the church he then met up with Graham and Suzanne who appeared at almost the same time after their AC ride. All three cycled back to Ickleton and Suzanne continued in the gloom to Abington having clocked up another impressive 35 miles – another contender perhaps for the mega distance ride per year award? Mind you, Graham will be hard to beat any year.
Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their planning. Well done to all for turning out.
In the absence of a Christmas lunch this year, Maurice chose today to announce the distributions to be made to the charities that The Windmill Club supports. An amazing £4,737 has been raised so far this year, as at 26 November, with £,4,600 distributed to charities closely associated with some of our members. The photo above, taken during a coffee break at Burwash Manor, shows Maurice handing over cheques to Deborah, for The Samaritans, and to Charles for Pets as Therapy. A complete list was provided by Andrew in a WhatsApp post which is repeated here:
Windmill Club Charity donations 2020 Maurice and I would like to thank you all for your amazingly generous donations to various Windmill Club charities in 2020 – As of last Thursday 20 November we have received £4,600 in donations and with nearly 5 weeks until the year end, we’re confident our target of £5,000 will be beaten. To keep you informed here is a list of the charities we are supporting Marie Curie Cancer £500 Arthur Rank Hospice. £500 East Anglian children’s hospice. £1000 Eve appeal for cancer. £1000 Samaritans. £1000 Pets as therapy. £500 Addenbrookes charitable trust. £150
We supported Arthur Rank follow the death of our dear friend Vernon. The Samaritans are supported due to the sterling work Deborah does on a voluntary basis, working throughout the night and after a couple of hours sleep she out on one of our Thursday rides -amazing !! Pets as Therapy are supported due to the wonderful work Charles undertakes, with weekly visits to Addenbrookes Hospital and two residential homes in Saffron Walden, unfortunately curtailed due to Covid. Well done Charles!! We will keep you full posted of the final total and in the meantime a heartfelt thanks from Maurice and I for your contributions and support throughout 2020. Andrew
And with more rides still to come in 2020, there is every chance we might achieve our target of £5,000 for the year. In such a difficult year for fund raising by charities, Windmillers have dug deep into their pockets to raise this magnificent sum – over double the amount of £2,000 raised in 2019! Well done to all!
This ride was a repeat of last week’s ride in most respects, except the weather which was nicer on the whole but very cold, icy and slippery in places, as Charles found to his cost whilst rounding a corner in Haslingfield at the junction with Chapel Hill, but luckily escaped without injury. And there were thorns to contend with too, as Roger dicovered early on between Chrishall Grange and Ickleton Old Grange where several Windmillers stopped to lend a hand, Andrew supplying assistance and pliers in particular whilst others offered mainly sympathy. What a horrible task it is fitting a new tube on a cold frosty morning! Bad luck, Roger. Did Andrew mention Schwalbe Marathons by any chance?
It was a large gang of 17 Windmillers on this CAC ride, and it could have been more if Brian wasn’t still suffering from a bad back and if Victor had been able to make it. The forecast of freezing weather clearly doesn’t put off hardy Windmillers. Besides the aforementioned, the others were Lindsey, Ken, Howard, Graham, Geoff, Mike, Rod, Lawrence, Alan, Simon, Jenni and Martin, riding in ones and twos, and this is where we went:
Burwash Manor in Barton proved to be an excellent place, once again, to stop and warm up with good coffee, mince pies, scones and cakes. It’s well organised with lots of outside tables and clean toilets, so much to recommend it. Situated approximately half way around the ride, there was quite a large gathering of socially distanced Windmillers at one time.
Last week, Simon cruised around in wet weather but found the time to compose a poem about Hannibal, the Alliterative, Little Lecter of Littlebury who served a prison sentence for murdering the pigeons that had been eating his produce, but he didn’t care. (See last week’s blog!) This week, to be fair to the pigeons, he thought they should have their say and so here it is:
Being a kind pigeon isn’t easy they say Up on this bare wire, amongst cold winds all day No being a pigeon isn’t so easy as that There’s hawks and starvation and that terrible cat
When you’re a pigeon and you get really old You stand on a wire since your feet get quite cold After flying around they can feel just like ice Please turn on your kettle, because that feels quite nice
Mum taught me to stay until my feet were quite dried Not too long though, since sadly my Dad, he got fried At school for pigeons the teachers did not mention Never told him, avoid ones labelled high tension
We know we’re a noisy, nuisance eating your grain But it’s dark and its winter, it even might rain Now I can’t sleep, the next bird, loudly is snoring We ate all your buds, because lock-down is boring
Little did we know that Simon is a professor of poetry as well as chemistry!
Another reason for celebrating was that it was Lawrence’s birthday but, sadly, there was no pub available for him to buy a round of drinks. Don’t worry, Lawrence, we’ll add you to the long list of non-celebrated birthdays this year particularly as pubs will need all the support they can get post-Covid.
Geoff was still shaking with cold when arriving back at Martin’s gate and was warmed up with a mug of coffee before continuing his journey home. Others enjoyed a beer, and many thanks to Graham for kindly topping up the beer supplies.
All in all a very special day and an eventful day all rolled into one. Thanks again to Maurice for being the inspiration behind The Windmill Club and Andrew for all the time he spends organising us.
Bringing the departure time forward to 1.00pm enabled a pleasant CAC ride to take place in good light on this late November day. Maurice created an interesting circuit, resembling a map of England (minus Devon and Cornwall), Scotland and Wales, and it was joined at various places by nine Windmillers.
The C brigade comprised Maurice, Andrew, Lindsey, Martin, Suzanne, Nick and Deborah, whilst the ACers were Rod and Charles, which explains why the C brigade didn’t meet many others. Martin and Suzanne were mainly responsible for this, having disobeyed orders by going Clockwise, Martin’s excuse being that he was getting giddy going AC in recent weeks.
This is where we went:
Despite the lovely weather, this proved not to be the ornithological extravaganza that we had the previous week when 10 red kites were seen circling over Anstey. The occasional buzzard was spotted but that was about it, at least as far as Martin and Suzanne were concerned. Perhaps the others had better luck but there have been no reports on WhatsApp of anything special being spotted. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to CAC around in. (Note that CAC can be used as both a verb and adjective but has not yet made the OED.)
Maurice cycled alone which generally results in faster speeds as there is no opportunity to get stuck into a discussion /debate with a cycling companion, which seems to reduce the average speed. He therefore did some overtaking in Berden and was then seen chatting briefly to Rod and Charles before accelerating away at high speed.on his e-bike.
Ending the ride by 3.00pm enabled Suzanne to cycle back in daylight to Abington, clocking up a total of 35 miles in the process, which was a big improvement on the previous week when it was cold, dark and wet.
Thanks go as always to Maurice for planning the route and Andrew for his organisation. Where would we be without those stalwarts?
For Thursday 19th November Maurice had set an unusual course; a figure of eight, with Haslingfield at the centre and Burwash Manor as the coffee stop. On this occasion the pleasure to be derived from the trip depended on whether you did it in the morning, as 16 people did, or later after the rain had mostly passed, as did Deborah and Jenni.
Eight has long been regarded as the luckiest number in Chinese culture. The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics started at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm on 8 the August 2008. Jesus was resurrected on the 8th day after Passover. Spanish gold was known “pieces of eight”. The 8-ball is the key to snooker. Everything will be OK on this course I felt, what can possibly go wrong?
There’s no getting over it, the weather was dismal, but I set off hoping to see people and receive a cheery wave. I donned wet weather gear and reached Ickleton unscathed, then visited the charity box at Martin’s. To my delight CHOCOLATE BISCUITS to keep out the cold, top chap. And beer. Better drink that later, after all it’s only 9.50. Still I am beginning to understand why they make alcohol expensive in Nordic countries. Goodness isn’t it grey. On I go Hinxton, nobody, Duxford, nobody. Whittlesford. Where are you all? At Newton I check my phone. Yes it’s Thursday, yes I have the right map, but where are 16 of you? Uncharitably I think, they must have looked out of the window and gone back to bed.
The rain wasn’t hard, just enough to keep me in wet-weather gear. It was grey though. I thought what shall I do to cheer myself up? I know compose a poem, so here it is.
A poem by Hannibal the
Alliterative, Little, Lecter of Littlebury.
There were eight pigeons on that wire
In spring they ate all my apple-tree buds
Some birds I ‘ate because they are destructive (and don’t sing)
As a convicted multiple murderer of pigeons
Unrepentant, I will scratch on my cell wall
I ate, the eight fat pigeons I ‘ate.
And I don’t care.
To forestall the obvious literary criticism, I know these are homophones, a subset of homonyms and not alliterative, but this art not English Language A-level, so give me a break. Now you understand how bored I had become.
Finally I struck gold, none other than Maurice and how glad I was to see him. Not long after that, my cup over-floweth, Victor too. Victor had started with Brian, but Brian had pulled out, faced by impending hills and a complaining back. Victor was about to give up and go home, but now I knew everything was going to be alright. You see I knew 8 was a lucky number.
The weather steadily improved as we made our way round. We encountered increasing numbers of club members. Good to see you all and to have a chat in these lock-down days.
I say the weather improved, it did so to such a degree that by the time Deborah and Jenni had done the circuit they were able to capture these amazing images
By the end of the day one would have to say this was actually a highly successful Windmill ride. We had been encouraged out by being part of the club. We had eased the boredom. We had raised another £150, with more to come.
We thank the usual Maurice and Andrew. Also Martin for his hospitality and Graham for his efforts on Zoom pub meetings. It takes a lot of effort to make a club work and I’m sure all the members are grateful, especially in these challenging times.
Like Bob Geldof in the Boomtown Rats (and Brenda Spencer), much of the club ‘don’t like Mondays’. Still going for a cycle ‘livens it up’ without hurting anyone, so off we went again. Many members made it out; Alan, Lawrence, Maurice, Martin and Suzanne, Deborah and Jenni, Andrew, Simon, Charles and Andrew with Lindsey having to drop out of this one.
People set off from different points with Andrew having assigned a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction for each person beforehand. All very well if you can remember how to reverse your way-points on the fly. Still we set off meeting sporadically as usual with the occasional conversations from opposite sides of the road. This is most social we are allowed to be at the current time.
The highlight of the ride was the spotting of so many red kites. Suzanne and Martin saw 5, Deb and Jenni saw 10. Taking my editorial duties very seriously, I thought it wise to check the verisimilitude of these sightings of course. The RSPB site says ‘There are probably around 1,800 breeding pairs in Britain, about half in Wales, with the rest in England and Scotland. In England the reintroduced birds can be found in the Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Gateshead and Grizedale Forest in Cumbria.’ So seeing so many was very lucky, perhaps due to a local-spot, maybe.
One the other hand, there are a number of common birds of prey in UK; Harrier, Goshawk, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk. One of particular interest is the Common Buzzard.
I shall be looking more carefully next time. Maybe we should have a prize for the first good photo?
Just outside Clavering on the way to Langley Upper Green we have a fine example of hedges cut according to two British traditions. The smooth and understated, following a time honoured style, for which the UK is famous. This tradition is best embodied by the Royalty and our splendid city parks perhaps. And on the other side, innovation and individuality, this is also the British way; the Beatles, Punk, Henry Moore and Banksy. In Switzerland the right hand hedge would elicit a letter from the council, asking for it to be tided up. I speak from grim experience. I was fined for mowing the grass on Sunday and sternly warned by a local government official, not to flush my apartment toilet after 10 pm.
Dark nights, cold and solo cycling, this leaves time for ones mind to wander. What would I like for Christmas, I thought? I don’t know. After thumbing through the back-catalogue of my memory, it came to me.
What I would like most is well trimmed bush as modelled by my niece, pictured here last summer. Yes that would make me very happy. There’s a lot that needs doing in the garden. That’s that problem solved then.
Soon after I took the hedge photos, Alan passed me and we made our way round to Chishill together. It was good to have company and the road from Chisill back to Elmdon is mostly downhill, so as the light faded, I was soon home. Another Monday ride done.
Another fine route by Maurice. Made to happen by the steady organisation of Andrew. It was good to see all those who took part.
According to Wikipedia, the village of Chrishall marks the highest point in Essex, at some 147 metres above sea level. Atop these lofty heights lives our Windmill chum, Charles, who on Thursday was hosting the Club charity box.
Victor and Brian, having cycled from home, had already clocked up 40 miles and stopped to help a stranded cyclist, so we arrived at Charles’ somewhat later than expected. Just as the Union Jack flies over the Palace to signify the queen is in residence, we were hoping the Cross of St George flying over Chalky Lane meant that somebody was home. Letting ourselves in through the side gate, we found the place strangely deserted. Charles was probably walking his many dogs or otherwise airing his cavalry twills. No matter, stuffing our contributions in the charity box, we mounted up and headed back down the hill towards Great Shelford some ten miles distant.
We had enjoyed a delightful outing; perfect autumn weather, beautiful countryside, quiet roads and, every so often, a cheery wave – or a few brief words – exchanged with a Windmiller going the other way.
Our notable moments had included:
Graham passing us on the circuit not once, not twice but three times. The man is a machine!
Judging by the many photographs posted, the big log on the roadside between Little Hormead and Furneux Pelham proved a popular spot to pause for refreshments; we trust everyone sanitised the log before moving on.
Pulling up for a breather in Nuthampstead, we found ourselves outside Bridget Tarrington’s house – and there was the lady herself tending the garden. We had a lovely chat – hopefully overlooked by the lockdown police – separated as we were by Bridget’s garden gate. She sends her love to all and hopes to join us on a Monday ride in the spring.
The aforementioned stranded cyclist was Suz, who we found mending a puncture by the roadside in Great Chishill. Helping out, we realised we had a mutual acquaintance; Suz lives in Wendens Ambo and is a near neighbour of Andrew’s. She was interested to know more about the Windmill Club and, who knows, we may even see her join us on future outings.
Finally, we must thank Maurice for the fine route, Andrew for logistics, and Graham, Simon, Martin and Deb for the many fine photographs.