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.
This should have been Vernon’s memorial ride but instead it became a CAC ride as a result of the new lockdown. 18 responsible Windmillers therefore set forth singly or in pairs on clockwise and anti-clockwise rides around a route which had been used during the previous lockdown, enabling almost all to join near to where they lived. Those going clockwise were Geoff, Andrew, Howard, Alan, Brian, Graham, Mike, Simon and Roger whilst those going anti-clockwise were Martin, Ken, Lawrence, Charles, Maurice, Rod, Deborah, Jenni and Nick. There was plenty of waving to those passing in the opposite direction.
This is where we went:
The weather was nearly perfect for a November day – a misty start in places which soon cleared to reveal bright sun on higher ground, no wind and quite mild. Maurice hosted the charity box, which added a further £107 to the magnificent sum of £4k+ already raised this year but, as Rod said recently, ‘Let’s make it over £5k by the year end’. Maurice also generously provided some beers, in return for a larger donation to the box of course. But lugging a 500ml bottle of Adnam’s Southwold up the hill to Barkway was Martin’s excuse for taking longer than usual. (10.45am just seemed too early to consume a beer at Maurice’s but it went down a treat at the end of the ride.)
Rod also observed recently that CAC rides can lack the support of others when things go wrong, as they did on this ride for Alan (puncture, but he got home after several pump-ups) and Geoff (unknown problem but he got home ok). All being well, there should be someone heading in the opposite direction or coming from behind, depending on the start and finish times.
Different Windmillers see different things when out on a ride. How did Ken and Martin, and perhaps others too, miss the pumpkin field? Deborah and Jenni not only saw it but Deborah got amongst them too (see photo above) and Simon stopped to take some really arty farty photos which make the field look more like a lunar landscape:
And here are some more taken on Simon’s ride:
Graham was clearly in a photogenic mood too:
Ken and Martin meanwhile were spotting the wildlife:
And here are some pics of some of those taking part:
All got back to base safely and to end the day Graham organised a Zoom session at 6.00pm to recount tales. A good time was had by all.
Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organising the day and to Simon, Graham and Brian for some of the pics. And thanks again to Maurice for the beers.
After several happy weeks under the Rule of Six and Tiers 1 and 2 which enabled almost normal rides and pub lunches to take place, but requiring some CAC adjustments at times, this ride involving just six Windmillers was about as normal as they come. However, the debacle over the lockdown announcement on 31 October instead of 2 November, due to a leaky Minister, meant that we knew before setting off that this would be the last ‘proper’ ride for at least a month. Sadly, this meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for 5 November but we will look forward to arranging a new date once we can all get together properly again.
In the expectation of Maurice being able to present Moira with a lovely framed photograph of Vernon this week, Brian, who very kindly organised the printing and framing of the photo, cycled from Shelford to The Red Cow in Chrishall with it on board. But due to the imminent new lockdown Moira had very sensibly decided to spend the month with her daughter and so the photo will be presented to her at a future date. Here it is in the back of Maurice’s car:
So, it was Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Alan and Martin who set off in a group of six from The Red Cow around our lanes on this sunny autumnal day. This is where we went:
All went well as far as the Shaftenhoe End / Little Chishill junction where there was a significant traffic jam, the likes of which we have never seen before, caused by a large delivery vehicle, a tractor and several cars not to mention six cyclists all of whom had to reverse / do a U-turn, to enable the delivery vehicle to pass, with a very harrassed-looking driver at the wheel. Astonishingly, we saw the same vehicle coming towards us again on a narrow lane in the vicinity of Meesden with the driver looking even more unhappy, having nearly ended up in a ditch to avoid us. Let’s hope he wasn’t on commission of 50p per delivery.
The sun was low in the sky by the time we reached Langley Upper Green, which enabled some fine photographs to be taken:
At this point, Martin’s new chain and cassette started slipping a gear or two and so engineer Andrew said he would tweak the cable adjuster half a turn which should sort it out. Result: some improvement but more tweaking / investigation needed.
It looked like a good sunset was in store, and indeed it was:
Back at The Red Cow we received a warm welcome and enjoyed a socially distanced pint on 3 separate tables, followed by some ordering fish and chips from the van outside before departing for home with a full moon to light the way.
Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride.
The CAC acronym, invented by The Windmill Club, is now generally known by Windmillers as meaning Clockwise Anti-Clockwise and has proved to be a most useful way of continuing our rides during periods of lockdown whilst obeying all the rules. But what is it about CAC rides that seems to bring members out in larger numbers than on normal rides? Is it a reaction against being told to lockdown (but are we really a rebellious lot?) or is it the convenience of starting and finishing a ride near to home and being convivial at the same time? Perhaps CAC could also stand for Convenience and Conviviality? Other suggestions on a postcard, please.
So we had 10 Windmillers setting out either singly or in pairs on a route devised by Maurice, who went clockwise along with Charles, Deborah / Jenni, and Simon. Those going anti-clockwise were Andrew / Lindsey, Nick and Lawrence / Martin. This is where we went:
Maurice was the first person that Lawrence and Martin met, in Heydon, followed by Charles near Barkway golf course and Simon near Meesden, who had time to remove his helmet and get stuck into a big debate with Lawrence about the role of consultants in life. The consensus was that they are generally ripping off the taxpayer but Martin said why not become one if the Government chooses to throw our money around liberally? Ten minutes later we decided it might start to get dark and so we pedalled on. Then we met Deborah and Jenni who were clearly enjoying a nice autumnal ride. Here they all are:
Meanwhile, Andrew was on the look out as usual for roadkill, having been known in the past to stuff anything that looks tasty into his bike bag, dead or alive, including a solitary onion once. But on this occasion it wasn’t a pheasant or partridge or even the deer which he was seen eyeing up in a ditch near Chrishall recently, but some lovely looking quinces and an Ice Plant:
We didn’t see Nick but he reported having had to modify the route due to not having charged up his battery beforehand. But it appears he needn’t have worried as he got back with plenty of oomph left. The range of some of those modern e-bikes is just amazing.
Thanks to all for taking part and particularly Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and Simon who provided the wonderful topiary photo above – enough to scare off any nasty virus.
Once again, it was The Red Cow at Chrishall for the meeting place on this autumnal Monday ride. Is it the convenient location, is it the cosy interior now that the evenings are getting chilly or is it the fish and chip van in the pub’s car park which gets going just as a ride finishes that makes it so popular? Whatever the reason, it resulted in another good turnout of nine Windmillers to enjoy a circuit of local lanes, in two groups, one going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise making this another CAC ride.
With the clocks having just gone back an hour, 3.00pm was pushing our luck a bit for setting off, given that we started at 3.30pm the week before. But the weather made all the difference – a bright, sunny afternoon which lasted for a couple of hours compared to a cloudy end to the previous Monday.
Maurice’s group included Charles, Sandra, Nick and Simon whilst Andrew’s group included Alan, Rod and Martin. As usual, Maurice shot off at high speed on his e-bike, anti-clockwise, leaving the others trailing in his wake whilst Andrew’s group freewheeled merrily down to the Wendens Ambo road before climbing up to Duddenhoe End. This is where we went:
We are used to seeing a wide variety of wild life on our rides but Andrew’s group were thrilled to spot a very large stag near Meesden, thanks to sharp-eyed Alan, strutting his stuff (the stag not Alan) on open fields looking for his next conquest. He was a magnificent beast and was seen again close up the other side of Meesden with a smile on his face. Had he just had a quick rut we wondered? Martin was slow on the draw with his camera and the stag soon galloped off having presumably got a whiff of his next romantic encounter, but this is what he looked like:
With decreasing light, Andrew’s group decided not to call in at Maurice’s house but, in any event, whilst rocketing down the long hill from the Barkway ridge we saw the others crawling up in the opposite direction. They still had a long way to go, no doubt due to Maurice’s hospitality, and indeed they returned to The Red Cow some time after Andrew’s group.
The sun was just setting behind the Great Chishill windmill as Andrew’s group climbed up to the village, which enabled the featured photo above to be taken. Of all the windmills we pass on our travels this one seems to have a majestic beauty about it.
Portions of chips with spicy mayo and tomato sauce washed down with a pint of Wherry proved to be a very good end to a rutting good ride.
Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the ride.
P.S. What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idea.
They call me the wanderer, Yeah, the wanderer, I roam around, around, around . . .
Lyrics sung by Dion in 1961
Thursday morning saw Ken and Martin ready and waiting to greet Windmillers arriving at The White Swan, Conington. Ken had prepared the route and – with Andrew laid up sick – Martin had taken on the logistics. Seventeen Windmillers were expected and, keeping us Covid safe, Martin had planned for us to gather, ride and take lunch in three groups, separated in time and space. What could possibly go wrong?
A flurry of Whatsapp messages and phone calls later, however, and Martin’s plans lay in tatters. Several Windmillers were stuck in traffic on the M11 and Deborah, distraught on the telephone, was lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire. With cyclists now arriving in dribs and drabs, Martin, thinking fast to avoid chaos, assembled and dispatched groups of six on a first come, first served basis.
Meanwhile Deborah, still orbiting the outer reaches of the county, with Martin’s help was guided in to rendezvous at our refreshment stop – The Wheatsheaf, West Perry – where her spirits were revived with generous helpings of coffee and cake. No group outing for her, though she did at least manage a pleasant ride around Grafham Water, which the rest of us could only glimpse over a hedge.
Near Buckden, those of us following Simon were mortified to see him take a wrong turning on to the busy A1. Yikes! Attempting to call him back, we yelled for all we were worth, but to no avail; there he was pedalling alongside the traffic, seemingly bound for Scotch Corner and all points north.
That was the last we saw of Simon for some time as he embarked on an impromptu 17 mile tour of Brampton, Huntingdon, Godmanchester, the Hemingfords and Fenstanton before finally rejoining us at the White Swan in Conington. Mightily relieved to see him back safe, his arrival was applauded by Windmillers and locals alike. Somewhat pink in the face but otherwise unharmed, he enjoyed a restorative pint though was sadly too late for lunch.
Simon, poor chap, suffered a final indignity when his car stubbornly refused to start. Martin, Ken and Lawrence tried pushing it around the car park before enquiring in the pub as to whether anyone might have jump leads. A very helpful Sandra-type lady came to the rescue, positioning her Audi alongside Simon’s Honda and, connecting up the cables, he was soon firing on all four again.
It had been an enjoyable, if eventful, outing – the majority of riders clocking up 35 miles. This week’s high mileage awards went naturally to Simon (42 miles), but also Ric (70 miles) and Graham (88 miles).
Thanks are due to Ken for planning the route and Martin for improvising his very own Operation Stack, avoiding chaos on the approaches to Conington, much like the Kent police do for Dover.
Finally, we must pay tribute to our dear friend, Vernon, who sadly passed away this week after a long illness, bravely fought. Our thoughts are with Moira and his family. We will be organising a memorial ride in the next few weeks.
The weekend had been windy. Branches removed from the trees, with lashing of rain and grey skies. So it was with considerable relief that come Monday and the Windmiller’s ride, the weather had turned to give a lovely autumnal late afternoon, with bright sunshine and little wind. The sun shines on the righteous of course. Seven Windmillers assembled at the Red Cow in Chrishall; Martin, Maurice, Alan, Simon, Charles, Deborah and Nicolas. With the present Covid rules we set off well-spaced and in the fervent hope that the locals can’t count.
We were determined to do our best to enjoy the ride despite the absence of Andrew, alias Deputy Dawg. Martin reported that Dawg had acquired food poisoning, had lost 10 pounds and was feeling too miserable to ride. We thought that sounded quite plausible, after all, that is quite a lot of money for a Scotsman.
We rode clockwise round this loop.
Along the Royston Road and up the hill to Arkesden. At 4.30 the pull of the Axe and Compasses was easily overcome. Our furthest point was Stocking Pelham. Wikipedia tells us that its population was exactly 163 in 2001 and exactly 163 in 2011. My belief is that so little happens they probably put the same documents in for the 2011 census that they had for 2001. This shows an admirable contempt for government form-filling, as one would expect from the wild no-man’s-land that is the Essex-Hertfordshire border. More Pelhams, then on to Lower Langley Green, where the attractions of the Bull were, with some effort, resisted. Down to Duddenhoe End where Nick peeled off and back to Chrishall, losing Charles to the attractions of Chalky Lane. Deborah needed time to do something for her husband’s birthday. The details were mercifully sketchy. Only three Windmillers up for a drink then, the downside of which is that there were only two available for me to scrounge drinks off.
Sitting in warm, post-ride sunshine Simon observed, quite correctly, what fine child-bearing hips the barmaid at the Red Cow has. Only to be told by another club member that they had spotted her first and that he would have to join the back of the que. He felt that this offends against the usual spirit of the Windmill Club, with its all-important emphasis on generosity and sharing.
We thank Maurice for the route and leading. Andrew for coping so well with organising the club in these times of increased rules and restrictions on our cherished freedoms. Members should note that ‘Simon’s Law’ in the new Club Rules, restricting the sharing of nuts and crisps, was studiously observed throughout. All that was shared was our company, something for which were all are truly grateful in these times of government sanctioned isolation.
Was this, the last day of summer in 2020 (if you believe that the Autumn Equinox marks the first day of Autumn), the reason why romance remained in the air for a second Monday running? Not only did Maurice plan the route to ensure that we went by the same field of flowers but he picked some flowers together with Martin and they were then snapped by Deborah and Simon plighting their troth! Very worrying indeed, until it became apparent that both posies of flowers were for their wives and not each other. Gasps of relief all round!
Starting once again from The Red Cow at Chrishall, nine Windmillers set off on a delightful cruise around the lanes, the others being Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Deborah, Nick and also Lindsay who it was a pleasure to see again. It was also great to have Simon rejoin us only a few weeks after his hernia op and to see him charging up hills. This is where we went:
Although this was the last day of summer it didn’t really feel like it – it was very warm, sunny and quite balmy when we got back to The Red Cow. What a good ending to one of the strangest summers ever experienced, and a pleasant contrast to daily news about Covid-19. It wasn’t long, however, before we lost Lindsay who took a right towards Great Chishill at the bottom of the hill from Chrishall, down which the other eight went at high speed, but hubby Andrew and Deborah went back to find her and we all reconvened at Langley Upper Green.
Passing The Bull at Lower Langley, which we haven’t visited for a while, we passed close to Nick’s house and then through to Brent Pelham and down to a gravel strewn, but dry, Violet’s Lane and back up to Washall Green. (Violet’s Lane is generally avoided in the winter as it floods at the bottom end and can be icy.)
At Starlings Green the prolific plum tree was devoid of plums. We were probably just a bit too late although there were suspicions raised that Andrew had got there before us. But then he discovered it last year, so fair enough.
Passing Stickling Green and skirting Clavering, it wasn’t long before we were picking flowers again near Duddenhoe End. This time, Simon and Martin dived in first but Simon took a distinctly scientific approach by getting up close with his camera and listening intently to the sound of buzzing bees, and impressed too at the environmental contribution this farmer was making.
Meanwhile Martin got picking another bunch of flowers for Deborah, who was a short way back with Lindsay, and was ordered by Rod to get down on one knee to present them. But then he had to dash back to pick a second bunch for Penny, who had very much enjoyed receiving last week’s bunch, whilst Maurice did the same for Lyn.
Andrew and Lindsay took a short cut back to The Red Cow whilst the others returned via Elmdon and we all enjoyed refreshments outside, Lawrence having to leave first as it was bedtime story time by Zoom for one of his grandchildren.
Well done to Simon for getting ride-fit again so quickly and for taking some pics. And thanks to Maurice for planning the romantic route and Andrew for organising us.
Starting from the Fore Street Pay and Display Car Park in Framlingham (phew, got that mouthful out of the way safely), just down the road from the Crown Hotel where some had congregated for coffee beforehand, two groups of Windmillers set off in the direction of Aldeburgh. Five in each group was the plan but Maurice shot off at speed (such is the acceleration of an e-bike) accompanied in Group A by Ken, Lawrence and Howard whilst Group B was led by Andrew with Deborah, Mike, Alan, Graham and Martin in line astern.
The route was familiar for some, through very quiet and beautiful Suffolk lanes, but it was just as well that Group B had a couple of GPXers with them, Graham and Martin, as Group A went out of sight quite soon. The problem with GPX files, however, is that they are never wrong – the old saying of garbage in, garbage out still applies – with the result that Group B faithfully followed the route but just before Knodishall discovered that it took them down a sandy track, through a farmyard, under the pylons from Sizewell and then back on the tarmac. Group A, meanwhile, were relying on Maurice’s paper map which is never wrong!
This is where we went:
Entering Thorpeness, Group B were surprised to find Group A on the green by the Meare. Were they admiring the group of vintage Rudge motorbikes we wondered? Or was that a Windmiller’s bike upturned and being attended to? It was indeed Lawrence’s rear disc brake that was not working correctly and despite various adjustments it stubbornly refused to cooperate. Nothing for it but press on and have another go over a coffee in Aldeburgh.
The next stop was Aldeburgh for coffee but Group B stopped to admire the Maggi Hambling scallop sculpture on the beach, which created such a hoo-ha amongst the locals when it was first commissioned and installed in 2003, who considered it spoilt a lovely stretch of open beach. But the general view now, certainly amongst Group B, is that it enhances the beach and has withstood both vandalism and gale force winds without flinching.
Aldeburgh was heaving with visitors and so coffee was not easy to come by. But whilst some were queuing for their lunchtime baps at a baker’s shop Mike came to the rescue and invited everyone for coffee in his spacious garden at his and Pat’s house near the church. And what a glorious place it turned out to be, not to mention coffee worthy of the best barista. And Deborah voted the jam that Mike and Pat produced to accompany her croissant as being 10 out of 10.
By the time we set off at noon on the downwind leg back to Framlingham, some had already eaten their fresh warm baps whilst the others were looking forward to a picnic lunch at Snape. The route was a Maurice special – a left after Aldeburgh Golf Club and then along a sandy track, a boardwalk through wetlands and a forest path all the way to Snape, with a diversion at the end through a wood and then along the river bank to the Maltings. And with a high tide to greet us, the views were quite stupendous.
Maurice had worked up a thirst by this time and so he headed off to The Ship at Blaxhall to see if it was open. Indeed it was and so after the picnic the others joined him there and some stayed for a pint whilst others started to make their way back, stopping in Easton on the way to get creative, photographically, with the famous crinkle crankle wall, thought to be to longest in England:
Maurice, Mike and Martin, energised after a pint, set off some time later and despite a stop to admire the view over a hedge caught the others up as they were leaving the Fore Street car park. Thus ended a fabulous ride.
Thanks go to Maurice for planning the route, even the scenic sandy route at Knodishall, Andrew for organising us, Mike and Pat for their kind hospitality and all the photographers who contributed pics.
Valentines’ Day is a long way off but Deborah and Martin looked like they were getting romantic on this lovely summer’s evening when Deborah suddenly jumped off her bike and dived into wild flowers sown at the edge of a field near Duddenhoe End, hotly pursued by Martin. And what a splendid assortment of flowers they were, humming with the sound of bees and insects amongst them – a great example of what environmentally friendly farmers can achieve if they put their minds to it. Well done to the farmer concerned.
But poor Deborah had a jilted look on her face when Martin said the posey was not for her but for his missus, Penny, who displayed them in the neat little vase above when Martin got home. There were Asters, Marigolds, Anemones and several others that a botanist such as Ric might be able to identify.
All this took place towards the end of a very pleasant ride around the lanes, starting and finishing at The Red Cow in Chrishall. Seven Windmillers set forth – Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Charles, Lawrence, Nick and Martin. Nick had come over from Meesden and so he peeled off at Langley Lower Green whilst the remaining six continued towards Clavering on a very warm and sunny evening – one of the best.
Back at The Red Cow it was good to be joined by Simon O and to hear his tales of tractor driving, where it seems there is nothing to do these days but let the GPS steer the tractor whilst the driver reads the Financial Times. He also told us about his grand daughter’s first day at school which resulted in her returning home enquiring about a certain part of the male anatomy. The things they teach kids at such an early age these days!
What a contrast with almost a year ago when this ride was first planned but then cancelled due to inclement weather. Instead we had almost perfect conditions for a cycle ride – non-stop sunshine after a slightly cool start, little wind and pleasantly warm on the return leg.
Starting from a lovely pub, The Square and Compasses, in Fuller Street, south of Braintree in the midst of quiet Essex lanes, 12 Windmillers set off in two groups, suitably equipped with GPX files on their devices. But Maurice took the wise precaution of bringing along a paper map too which proved to be quite useful towards the end of his ride………….
Group A was led by Martin, who devised the route using mainly National Cycle Network routes, and he was accompanied by Maurice, Charles, Alan, Chris and Mike. Group B was led by Rod and his faithful followers were Andrew, Ken, Deborah, Howard and Geoff (who had a back up GPX just in case). At a couple of points Group A took wrong turnings only to watch Group B wizz past on the correct route – so much for Group A’s ability to follow a GPX route, correction Martin’s ability, who should have known better as he had done a recce of the route a year ago.
Except for a housing estate in Witham the route took us along delightfully quiet and often narrow winding lanes with far reaching views of the Essex countryside, and hills were few and far between. Exiting Witham, where Martin took one of his wrong turnings, resulted in cries of ‘Where’s Maurice?’ once Group A had caught up with Group B. So we waited and waited but then spotted a smiling Maurice approaching us. Why was he smiling so broadly? It soon became clear that the wrong turning proved to be to Maurice’s financial advantage as he spotted a £20 note lying on the ground which he just had to stop and pick up, by which time the traffic lights were against him. But this being deepest Essex, had the note just been printed locally we wondered?
It wasn’t long before we were heading down towards the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin, a familiar sight for Maurice who used to keep his boat further down the Blackwater at Maylandsea and often sailed it to Heybridge Basin and Maldon. It was low tide and so the view was mainly of black estuary mud rather than black water but gorgeous all the same.
The return leg commenced with a trip up the side of the River Chelmer / Blackwater Navigation Canal containing many moored craft including a lifeboat. This consisted of a narrow towpath / bike path / footpath which required careful bike navigation to avoid falling in or knocking a pedestrian in. But both Groups made it safely into Maldon avoiding any roads and ending up on the banks of the muddy Blackwater as it flowed into the estuary. Then it was a short trip down the Blackwater before turning up into the centre of Maldon, an attractive town hosting an excellent brewery, and exiting on the north side for the final miles back through beautiful undulating countryside. Group A found this to be peaceful whilst Group B experienced some road rage from an angry lady driver and a fast moving tractor.
Entering the pretty village of Terling, Martin stopped to admire the view which resulted in Maurice and Howard taking the wrong road out of the village but thanks to Maurice’s paper map they found their way back to the pub without any great delay.
After a warm welcome at the Square and Compasses and an excellent lunch, washed down with thirst quenching JHB from the Oakham Brewery, the main drama of the day suddenly unfolded when Mike staggered to his feet saying he had to find a doctor / hospital quickly. It turned out that his pedal had hit a shin bone which resulted in a broken blood vessel which quickly grew to the size of a tennis ball. Directions were given to the local hospital in Chelmsford but Deborah recognised the pain Mike was in and offered to drive him there. Well done Deborah! A medal for sure at the Christmas lunch. The good news since is that the swelling subsided and that the doc thought there was every chance that Mike would be able to go climbing in the Alps as planned within a couple of days. That’s an extreme Windmiller for you!
So was it a hornet or a wasp that stung Andrew badly last Thursday? We’ll never know but he was clearly not a happy bunny 24 hours after the event.
By Monday the swelling had subsided and he was his usual cheery self when out on a 19 mile ride around the lanes with Maurice, Rod, Charles, Alan and Martin:
Starting from The Red Cow at Chrishall at 4.30pm, Maurice led the way around our quiet autumnal lanes taking in Shaftenhoe End, Nuthampstead (giving Bridget a wave as we passed her house), Anstey (giving Andrew a shout), Brent Pelham, Meesden, Langley Upper Green and Duddenhoe End, before enjoying a pint outside on our return, at which point the temperature began to drop quite quickly.
Thanks to Maurice for planning the route and Andrew for getting us assembled.
Socially distanced cycling, eh? Who’d have thought? Whereas our peloton used to be upwards of a dozen strong – a veritable rolling roadblock – we now only venture out in groups of six or less, appropriately spaced. This week it was Maurice leading the first group and Brian the second. Trouble was, Brian didn’t really know the route, relying instead on tail-enders Graham and Rod to shout directions from the rear.
So it was that Maurice, followed by Roger, Ken, Alan and Chris set off from The Rushbrooke Arms, Sicklesmere, heading for Gedding – followed ten minutes later by Brian, Victor, Deborah, Mike, Graham and Rod – Brian making sure he kept within earshot of Graham and Rod.
Sunshine and the beautiful Suffolk countryside ensured a very pleasant outbound ride to Lavenham, where we pulled in for refreshments at The Swan. Most ordered coffee and teacakes – but Graham, who had already cycled the extra 35 miles from home – was desperate to wet his whistle with a pint. Coffee and teacakes were served aplenty but, despite increasingly desperate reminders to the staff, the beer did not materialise and poor old Graham took the saddle just as thirsty as when he arrived.
Returning to Sicklesmere via Bridge Street, Shimpling and Hawstead, we enjoyed an alfresco lunch at the The Rushbrooke Arms where, thankfully, Graham managed to down a few restorative pints ahead of his 35 mile return home, neighbour Mike joining him for the ride.
Thanks, Maurice, for planning the route and leading the way on such a delightful outing.
And so it was on this pleasant afternoon in early August that seven Windmillers led by Maurice and accompanied by Andrew, Rod, Simon, Charles, Alan and Martin came across the same field in Clavering that we saw a year or so ago. The wheat had just been cut with an old fashioned binder so that the straw could be used for thatching, but the drying stooks looked irresistible to Simon who suddenly came over with a huge desire to be a hermit crab, so in he climbed. He might have just fancied a new hair-do but either way he semed very pleased with the result.
The ride had started at The Red Cow in Chrishall and took in familiar quiet lanes to Elmdon, Littlebury Green, Arkesden, Clavering, Langley Lower Green and Duddenhoe End.
And this is where we went:
Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the ride.
Thirteen Windmillers set off, in two groups, on the usual Thursday club ride this time from the Pack-horse Inn in Moulton. Pack-horse bridges (~1400 AD) pre-date the canals and railways. They were just wide enough to accommodate a mule with their packs, allowing them to cross geographical barriers such as the River Kennett here in Moulton.
The Kennett has been much reduced of late, by water extraction for agricultural purposes and to quote the Wikipedia page “it has only been the presence of the sewage treatment works between Dalham and Moulton that has meant any water has flowed through Moulton in recent years”. This reason isn’t in all the guide books though.
The first leg saw us ride through Cavenham and Icklingham, then stopping at the West Stow Anglo Saxon Village. It was 10.50 and they usually didn’t start making coffee until 11.00. However Morris and Andrew used their considerable powers of persuasion to get things started anyway. It was difficult to keep social distancing in this process. Future rides will be altered to try and avoid the problem, so that everyone can feel comfortable and safe.
West Stow was the site of an Anglo-Saxon village (~700AD) and was the site of ‘experimental archaeology’ in the late 90’s, where scientists tried out their theories about how Anglo-Saxon’s lived by re-building the village, in ancient style and trying to live that way for a while. Often this is a disaster of course, but that just adds to the fun.
The centre has a Beowulf and Grendel trail, indicated by a giant log and a wooden sword outside. The tale of Beowulf, a legendary Anglo-Saxon King, is important because it’s one of the first things ever written down in English. Everything else of the era was in Latin, the language of the church and monasteries. The story is; in his mid-twenties Beowulf kills a monster, Grendel and its mother, in a cave. Then after 50 years as King, he kills his final dragon, then dies quickly and painlessly soon after from his wounds. It’s the sort of life-story many members of the club aspire to. Any similarities between it and The Hobbit we are told are “accidental”. But Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford and wrote a book on Beowulf, so I’m not so sure.
Such stories share the common tropes of good versus evil, reluctant chivalrous hero and the tragedy and pathos of a final, but costly victory. They were told round the camp-fire in an oral tradition, with the teller making them more popular, by embellishing here and there.
This tradition isn’t dead.
The Anglo Saxons were well known to popularise stories by the inclusion of suggestive language and for mentioning their love of beaver which was readily available in their riverside villages.
The ride returned via Dalham, a very attractive village, which has both an old oast-house and a windmill. Though getting a picture of the latter required attaching a telephoto lens to my phone . In Dalham a small group split off for a detour, adding a few extra miles, on what was a beautiful day for cycling. Back at the pub we enjoyed food outside and were joined by Brummy Brian who had cycled out to meet us.
Thanks to Morris for the route and to Andrew who books the pubs, deals with all the administration and who led the 2nd group round the ride.
Not everyone was encouraging about this trip. “You are not going to France. You will still be locked-down, locked-in and should be locked-away for contemplating it. We’re in the middle of an international crisis. Quarantine, infection, no ferries, no accommodation, nothing will be open. You’re not fully fit. Maybe you will have to isolate when (if) you return.”
I could only reply. “Fair points but maybe we can still figure out how to make it happen. We may need to tweak the plan a bit. At this stage of life though, it’s important not to give up on one’s pleasures too easily”
So it was that after considerable uncertainty and several changes of plan, four Wind-Millers set off for France on one of the first passenger-carrying ferries to leave Blighty during this fateful year. It was the result of hours on the phone to ferry companies by Andrew (Deputy-dawg) and a complete re-write of the plan by Martin (Rev.), from pedestrian crossing followed by cycling point to point, to becoming a trip with two cars, lots of driving, with cycle racks, indeed with dismantled cycles in the car. It took quite some planning. Still we remembered those fateful words, “Never give in. Never, never, never, never in nothing, great or small, large or petty never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.” (1 see link). We might need to rethink the “good sense” bit perhaps.
Tuesday, the first day, was a circular ride to Mont St. Michel. This was an inspiring sight in the mist during a day which started with rain and gradually became very pleasant. I wondered why we admire these monuments so much. Why do people come from near and far to this pilgrimage cathedral, on a remote rock, in a sparsely populated corner of France? If anyone suggested it now I guess an accountant would say “if you must build a worship solution, it would be cheaper to build it on flatter land, in a place with better transport links”. Today the Glory of God has been replaced by worship of the profit and loss account and I suppose people miss something else to value.
The cider in this region is most impressive. Each Gete seems to make their own, not too sweet or dry and redolent of the small area the apples came from. Every breakfast had exclusively home-made jams and locally sourced croissant. Sometimes the start of the day’s cycling was delayed by the absolute necessity to wait for the Gite owner to return from the bakery. The roadside was also completely devoid of the detritus all too common on roads in the UK. Recent elections in France have seen the ‘Greens’ returned. I wonder if we won’t see much more of that in this country.
Wednesday 15th found the intrepid Wind-Millers cycling north from Mont St. Michel, up the coast with Jersey a distant silhouette out to sea. In a tiny town called Quettreville we sought our evening meal and came across a gem. This was a restaurant run by a former Rumanian monk, brewing his own beer and I can only say ‘designing’ his own sea-food dishes. All this from what looked like a corner-shop cum transport café. The restaurant was filled with home-made preserves and pickles. The food was as good as any high-class restaurant in Paris. The chief was completely immersed in the art of cooking. I still can’t quite believe a place like this exists in a location so remote. Full marks for Martin in finding it. We sampled much of what was on offer and cycled back to the Gete with the level of discipline that Morris would expect of us.
Thursday saw us cycling through low-lying marshes well in-land from Carentan. The wildlife was plentiful, especially noticeable were cranes and storks. The area is so remote that no restaurants were available near the accommodation. Our rooms were a wonderful set of ex-stables next to a local race-course and we cooked using the stable-lad’s two ring stove out in the courtyard. Myself, ably assisted by sous-chief Dawg, soon rustled up spaghetti carbonara. Afterwards we got back on the bikes, just in time to attend the local, evening trotting race.
In a previous blog I have admitted to my utter ignorance about horses. However being a member of this club is nothing if not an education. It turns out Dawg can spot a winner at the races from the angle of the horses ears during practice. However his virtual betting style missed a £130 win from £5 down. The Rev meanwhile, having rapidly sussed-out the racing in France, employed an intensely data-driven approach, but to less effect. Much less effect actually. Still both myself and Lawrence came out marginally ahead on the night. Once again ignorance and idleness had triumphed over knowledge and application. Life isn’t fair in so many ways I’ve noticed.
Friday 17th we started out back to the coast, then headed east across the beaches where on June 6th 1944 the Allies started a new chapter in Europe’s history. Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, the scale of what happened here is difficult to comprehend even now. The Mulberry harbours, as big as Dieppe port, two airports, a petrol pipe back to the UK, all built in a few days and under fire. Every promontory has a gun battery overlooking what are now beautiful, white sandy beaches. We stopped at a few including the monument to the 47 Royal Marine Commandos at Port-en-Bessin. Dawg has repeated their D-day ‘yomp’ many times along with a former club member Kell Ryan. Unfortunately Kell has since passed away but is remembered at a memorial in the village, dedicated to him and other friends of this commando group.
We stopped by at the Normandy US cemetery where many of the first 10,000 casualties of the invasion are interred. I’m in two minds whether a war cemetery can ever be an ‘attraction,’ no matter how imposing it is. One downside of tourism is that it sometimes treats places like Venice and Belsen as equivalent. Soldiers don’t die in neat rows to be marked by clean, white, marble crosses of course. My own father, on burial duty, exhumed and bagged three day old corpses from shallow, sand graves. He extracted a legless tank-officer’s corpse from under a thorn bush and found the dead using binoculars to spot flocks of feeding birds. To his cost he was never able to fully express just how much he hated war. Still the men buried here liberated Europe and we celebrate them. I just hope the Instagram generation aren’t too distant to truly understand what this cemetery cost. Uneasily, we took a few photos and left in a slightly sombre mood.
Though I am generally well disposed towards it, I couldn’t help but notice that France was very foreign. This fact seemed to have escaped one ex-pat we met, who had bought the land on which was situated one of the German’s largest defensive fortifications. It was buried by the Allies and has since been excavated by him. However all his attempts to turn this into a museum and attraction have been complicated, almost defeated, by local rules and bureaucracy. Oh yes, bureaucracy, I think that is a French word, isn’t it? A few minutes with him underscored some of the differences between our two countries. He may eventually get somewhere, if he lives that long and his blood pressure can stand it. We wished him well and quickly cycled on.
The difference between France and the UK can easily be explained using bread as an example. In France bread is baked locally and bought every day at 8.30am from the boulangerie. (2) It tastes of something (bread), is regulated by the government and is part of life. On the other hand, in the UK, 85% of bread (by volume) is made by just three manufactures in a small number of bread super-factories. (3) Not even Mr Corbyn suggested regulating bread’s price, size and content because the UK hasn’t had a revolution about it (yet). In the UK it’s bought once a week and its nature can best be described as “convenient carbohydrate”. Club members might try it sometime as an inexpensive excursion into the food culture of the UK’s masses. One country celebrates the local, high quality and the availability of a simple pleasure to everyone; the other convenience, efficiency and market-driven price, size and quality. Of course good bread is available in the UK too, if you can or want pay for it. So there you have it, two countries and two approaches to life through the allegory of a simple commodity.
The final day of cycling (Sat. 18th July) was a challenging 65 miles following the coastal roads back to Deauville. On the way, by chance, we met the head of Renault’s historic car collection. The Rev and Dawg, both proud former Renault owners, needed to reassure themselves that Renault did indeed have examples of the cars they had owned and loved. They did, because Renault has a collection of 850 different cars which they show to enthusiasts all over the world. I’m glad we all enjoy different things. My current car is blue, I thought the last one was red, but my son tells me it also was blue. It’s funny how your memory plays tricks on you. Deauville was packed for some Saturday racing. In the evening the harbour area was a heaving mass of people. We found a suitable (posh) restaurant well out of town and settled down to more fine food. And a few drinks, which we felt were richly deserved having had such a busy day.
Sunday was given over to the Rev and Dawg going to get the car from Mt. Michel while myself and Lawrence read the newspapers at the hotel. Thanks, you guys are heroes, then driving on to Dieppe and an AirB&B which Martin had booked. The air in AirB&B originates from the first beds being blow-up ones in the corner of someone’s room. But things have moved on, and the beds were very comfortable, especially after a trip to one of Rick Stein’s secret sea-food restaurants in Dieppe and a few more glasses of Muscadet.
The ferry back was uneventful. A certain amount of ‘shopping’ had been done in Dieppe but Customs waived us through. Perhaps they couldn’t hear the clinking. Those ferries are so very noisy.
So there you have it, a great holiday in excellent company; a testament to the restorative virtues of exercise, good food and reverently drunk wines. We must do it again some time. I hope so.
Thursday morning saw the usual suspects – plus Alan who we hadn’t seen for a long time – gathering in the car park of the Red Cow at Chrishall.
Splitting into two socially distanced groups, Maurice led the first group off towards Fowlmere, followed by Brian’s group some five minutes later.
We made the outbound leg via Shepreth and Orwell – and then, rather than take our usual route through Wimpole, we carried on to the top of Old Wimpole Road to try out the new cycle trail. A lovely addition to our list of local routes, the trail loops around the north and west boundaries of the estate to Arrington before turning back towards the Hall and café, some three miles in all with very good views of the house, folly and countryside beyond.
It was along this trail that two of our members somehow managed to fall off their bikes. First to take a tumble was Roger, a low speed involuntary dismount executed in some style, followed shortly afterwards by Alan who just keeled over into the bushes.
Back on the bikes we made the return leg via Barrington and Foxton before steeling ourselves for the long uphill climb to Chrishall.
We enjoyed an excellent lunch in the pub garden and celebrated another lockdown-delayed birthday. Last week it was Rod’s; this time it was Deborah’s turn – and she very kindly treated us all to a beer. Happy Birthday, Debs!
Thanks, Maurice, for planning another delightful outing – and, of course, Deborah for the beers.
To celebrate Rod’s delayed birthday due to the lockdown and also the opportunity to drive to a start point, ride in groups of 6 and have a socially distanced lunch in a familiar pub, Maurice devised a lovely 33 mile route starting and finishing at The Golden Fleece in Braughing.
Meeting at 9.00am to place our orders at The Golden Fleece was just like old times, except for the one way system through the pub and the large expanses of perspex, all done with great taste and efficiency by landlord Peter and his team. Outside there was a new deck covered by an awning which was reserved for use by the Windmill Club at lunchtime. All very smart and with the usual excellent beer and food too.
Accompanied by Andrew, Rod, Ken, Roger, Brian, Victor, Charles, Simon, Geoff, Jenny and Martin, Maurice led the way via Puckeridge, Perry Green, Stansted Abbots and Amwell Reserve to our usual coffee stop in Ware. It was great to have Victor with us after his recent bereavement with the death of his wife Rose. After our recent fund raising for Victor on behalf of Marie Curie, he very generously topped up the £440 we raised, by another £100, making £600 in all after the club had added a further £60 from funds.
This is where we went:
The roads were noticeably busier than in recent weeks, even the quiet lanes, and as we cycled alongside the towpaths of the River Lee there were many pedestrians too. The need to cycle harmoniously with other road / path users is something we need to focus on in the future, whilst also obeying any rules in place.
Some take the high road and some take the low road over Barwick Ford
Stopping in Perry Green outside Henry Moore’s studio and gardens gave us an opportunity for Charles to tell us of his time working for the Foundation for over 10 years from the mid-90s, starting as a finance / admin manager and finishing as the COO (and not the car park attendant as Andrew unkindly suggested). It was a period of great expansion for the Foundation, which is now recognised to be a world class centre for the study and enjoyment of sculpture.
Of course, two Windmillers (museum pieces Simon and Andrew) couldn’t resist demonstrating that modern sculpture was alive and well:
Simon and Andrew in modern sculpture mood at Perry Green
After coffee we headed along the towpath towards Hertford before wending our way back to The Golden Fleece through delightful lanes and enjoyed an excellent lunch. Rod very kindly bought the drinks and we all wished him a happy belated birthday. The good news is that several Windmillers owned up to have had lockdown birthdays and so there are a few more still to be celebrated.
Thanks to Maurice for planning the route and to Andrew for organising us. Sadly, Graham had not been with us on account of having had an accident the previous weekend but we wish him well and hope to see him out again soon.