The Duddenhoe Delta was bound to catch us out sometime and this proved to be the day when it happened. The multitude of lanes leading out of the village, Mississippi-style, creates endless combinations of returning to The Red Cow in Chrishall, and we probably tried them all thanks to the rare event of rain after leaving Arkesden.
Maurice led the way followed by Simon, Alan, Ken and Martin on an AC circuit taking in Great Chishill, Nuthamstead, Meesden, Clavering, Arkesden and Duddenhoe End. This is where we went:
The first black cloud was seen whilst stopping at the junction shown above but it wasn’t until after we had passed through Arkesden that the first drops of rain were felt.
Stopping for a combination of donning wet weather gear, or having a pee, resulted in Simon doing neither and pedalling on ahead on his Howard-created speed machine. That was the last we saw of him until The Red Cow but he claimed not to have got wet at all. Which route through the Duddenhoe Delta he took we never discovered. Ken, Alan and Martin then followed, suitably protected from the rain which, as usual, stopped within a couple of minutes, leaving Maurice to catch up in sport mode on his e-bike. But which way through the delta? Up the High Street and down to Lower Pond Street was the decision made, not realising that Maurice had a different plan which was to head for Elmdon and down the byway through the woods to Chrishall, clocking up exactly 20 miles compared to the others who shaved off a mile.
So, eventually all met up once again for a very welcome pint back at The Red Cow.
Thanks, Maurice, for organising the ride, and Alan for the drinks.
Freshly back from their 328 mile ride from Calais to Dieppe via WW1 and WW2 sites The Three Musketeers of the Windmill Club, namely Simon, Alan and Martin, met up again to discuss their conquests and tales of fine food and wines on this evening ride around the lanes. Accompanying them around France was Generale Lawrence de V Wragg in his wagon who very kindly carried their bags, dirty washing and acted as interpreter during the friendly encounters with local people.
Choosing the later time of 6.00pm to start the ride from The Red Cow in Chrishall, due to the high temperatures forecasted for earlier in the afternoon, resulted in just The Three Musketeers taking part. And at 28C it was still quite warm but on a bike it felt pleasantly cool as we cruised around the lanes taking in the sights and sounds of harvesting just getting underway, in contrast to Northern France where the harvest was in full swing two weeks previously.
This is where we went, clockwise:
The warm evening provided a good excuse to call in for refreshment at The Bull in Langley Lower Green before returning to Chrishall, bidding farewell to Alan as he climbed back to Great Chishill.
For those who might like to take a peek at the photos taken on the French trip, here is a link:
One of the highlights was on Day 1 when we found time to visit the Blockhaus near St.Omer, a spectacular concrete bunker where Hitler planned to assemble V2 rockets and manufacture liquid oxygen for use against London, Antwerp and other targets. But it was never completed as the RAF and USAF bombed it to blazes in August 1943 – nearly 400 bombs in under an hour which created earthquake-size tremors. A tall-boy bomb administered a fatal blow and the damage can still be clearly seen. Take a trip there the next time you’re cruising down the Autoroute des Anglais from Calais to Reims – you won’t be disappointed. On Day 2 we visited La Coupole, a similar project which was dome shaped and designed to deflect bombing but that was only just completed as the war was coming to an end, with huge technical obstacles on the supersonic V2 rockets to overcome. The slower V1 rockets were very effective, carried a heavier bomb and could be launched from a ramp hidden in a forest, accelerating from 0-60mph in 2 seconds, twice as fast as a Tesla.
Day 3 involved visiting several WW1 sites including Thiepval, Lochnagar Crater and Andrew’s Great Uncle Louis’s grave (with a Private Woodhead spotted by Simon buried in the same row). Day 4 took as to the site of the battle of the St. Quentin canal, towards the end of the war, where we stood on the same spot that Napolean III used when he opened a 3.5 mile long tunnel to connect the Parisian and Northern French river basins. On Day 5 Lawrence joined us on his bike for a ride along a canal path before returning to collect his car whilst The Three Musketeers got a drenching en route to Pierrefonds with its massive chateau which must have influenced Walt Disney. Day 6 was a memorable ride into Normandy when Goldilocks Lawrence, as he has since become known, spent the afternoon sleeping in the wrong B&B, where there was no sign of the owner when he arrived or when he left to join us at the correct B&B. Day 7 was a pleasant ride through Normandy, picking up the smooth Paris – Dieppe Route Verte on a disused railway line on the last stretch and Day 8 was a short trip to Dieppe to catch the 11.00am ferry to Newhaven.
This is a draft of the route, subsequently amended from Day 5 onwards to take in Pierrefonds and Compiegne. The total ascent was approx. 4,000m not 2297ft!
All for one and one for all! That seems to be a motto of The Three Musketeers which is particularly apt for The Windmill Club.
With so many of our pals away on holiday, Thursday’s peloton was a relatively small affair of just six Windmillers: Brian, Geoff, Howard, Ken, Maurice and Sandra.
Setting off from The Henny Swan – that’s in Henny Street, near Sudbury – it was only a few miles before we left the road to follow the old Stour Valley Line. Originally connecting the London to Cambridge and London to Colchester lines, the railway ran from Brian’s village of Shelford, South Cambs, to Marks Tey in Essex. Alas it closed in 1967, but its legacy is an excellent off road cycleway.
Leaving the trackway at Melford Country Park, we took to the roads again and headed east via Great Waldingfield to Kersey where, rather than visit the village, we carried on half a mile and pulled in at Kersey Mill for refreshment.
Back on the bikes we made the return leg via Stoke-by-Nayland, Bures and Lamarsh, arriving back at the Henny Swan for a slap up lunch in the garden.
To cap it all, Sandra – with her big birthday only days away – bought us all a beer. Cheers, Sandra, and many happy returns.
Thanks, Maurice, for planning and leading the way on such a delightful, traffic-free route.
This club will go a long way for a good ride, and this was proven true yet again with this week’s effort. We got up ready for a 7.30 (am!) start, despite having attained the hallowed status of ‘pensioners’, then drove right across Essex. Many members shared cars and we packed into the YMCA carpark while making them a donation. It was good to see Mike again after his move to this part of the country.
Brightlingsea was a renowned oyster fishery. After lunch, Martin was able to vouch for the continuing quality of their output. The town is also famous for the Battle of Brightlingsea in 1995. This was 9 months of protest against the export of live animals from the town for slaughter in Europe. In all 598 people were arrested, of whom 421 were local residents. Both the media and the authorities were “taken by surprise by the intensity of support” which “challenged the…stereotype of the typical animal rights protestor”. That organ of loony left-wing propaganda, The Daily Telegraph, characterised the protestors as “middle class, moral and mad as hell”. Tilly Merritt, a 79-year-old local woman, was convicted of assaulting a police constable by spraying him with water from a garden hose. She was sentenced to 2 days imprisonment, having refused to pay a fine. She was released when well-wishers paid while she waited in the prison van taking her to Holloway. The campaigners eventually won, and the live exports ceased.
Riding clockwise we enjoyed the sight of the UK’s largest village green at Great Bentley. Other contenders include West Auckland and Old Buckenham, but at 22 acres Great Bentley is the biggest. We soon arrived at the halfway point, Walton-on-the-Naze. Naze, derived from Old English næss “ness, promontory, headland”. The tower was built as a sea-mark to assist ships on this otherwise fairly featureless coast. The area is prone to coastal erosion. The medieval village of Walton now lies nine miles out to sea. The Naze is eroding at about 2 metres per year. WWll cliff-side pill-boxes are now located on the beach.
The cliffs are composed of a 2-million-year-old rock-type called Red Crag on top of a base of London Clay, which is 54 million years old. Red Crag contains many fossils including gastropod shells, sharks’ teeth, and whale bones.
Fortified by cake and drinks we set off down the coastal-path through Frinton, Holland-on-sea, via Gunfleet and on to Clacton. These are rather up-market seaside towns. Especially the rather austere Holland-on-sea with manicured coastal parks and no seaside pubs. Still Clacton looks enjoyable with its pier and tidy beachside area.
And from Clacton you can see wind turbines! Being a forward-looking club, we have accepted these as almost as good as Windmills. And as you would expect we are indeed obsessed by Windmills.
The Gunfleet array is visible from Clacton Pier and consists of 48 turbines. Since 2010 it has produced 500 GWh at £122 per MWh. Is that a lot I hear you ask? No, it isn’t, since the UK needs 300,000 GWh, so it’s 0.16% but it is not the only array on this bit of coast and the power is cheap, clean and made near where it is to be used.
The areal shot is of the several other larger arrays off this bit of coast. Authoritative, Lazard’s investment bank, analysis shows just how cheap ‘alternative’ power has become. Those living in low lying areas around the coast her may find power from CO2 producing, natural gas isn’t as cheap as it looks on this graph, having paid for flood insurance. Economists and their ‘externalities’ (aka. other people’s costs) aren’t helping the reputation of experts in general. One of the most famous of them said the quality of their ‘science’ was ‘dismal’. I don’t demure from that, I just object to them calling it a science.
By way of contrast our next destination on the coast was Jaywick. Having measured the states of deprivation across 32,844 areas in the country, researchers concluded that this is the most deprived region. Originally it was built as a holiday resort just before World War II. The war resulted a housing shortage and so the camp became permanent. The original lay-out was in the shape of a car radiator grille, with the roads named after various vehicle manufacturers. East End’ers were sold small plots and encouraged to self-build. What could possibly go wrong with that during the post-war shortage of materials? The plans for landscaping the development, along with a lake and a sports centre, strangely never materialised after the plots had been sold.
The local authority points out that the properties are sited on marshland, road improvements have a short lifespan and are quickly damaged by bad weather. In 1953 flooding killed 35 people. There were also evacuations in December 2013 and January 2017 with schools and other expensive infrastructure devastated. With poor roads and little other transport, a 2011 report saw 62% of working age residents receive benefits, compared a 15% national average. Absentee landlords find buying houses here cheap and that the rents then get paid as part of benefits, thus extracting easy money from the taxpayer. Nor is living in Jaywick much fun. A 2013 fresh-food survey found only “a bag of blackened bananas” and “potatoes at £2.29 per 2kg” within 1 mile of its centre. But then who would build a shop in a poor area that gets flooded every 4 years? Health costs are also high per capita. So, the “red tape” of planning permission saves us all money in the end. Wow what a surprise? Must get round to reading the Grenfell report.
Along the way we also saw Martello towers. These are named after the original one at Mortella (Myrtle) Point, Corsica but, they got the name wrong, misspelling “Mortella” as “Martello” which means “hammer” in Italian. The towers are 12M high with walls about 2.5M thick. Entry is by ladder to a door about 3M from the base. The garrison of 24 men and one officer lived on the first floor. The officer and men lived in separate rooms of almost equal size it is proudly noted noted in the historical write-up. Nothing much has changed then, with modern flats about the size of 1/24 of the size of a proper house.
On our way back to Brightlingsea we passed through St Osyth, named after a 7th-century princess and saint. She was forced into an unwanted marriage and ran off while her husband was hunting. She then persuaded two local bishops to accept her vows as a nun. Her husband returned, and after a polite but brief protest, he granted her some land where she established a convent. She was later beheaded by some raiding pirates, while resisting being carried off. Oh dear, never would have predicted that, on the coast and in such a remote bit of Essex. Still in the intervening 1300 years women have evolved safer, more low-key excuses; periods of inconvenience, headaches and urgent demands on their time, such as knitting and listening to the Archers
The return to Brightlingsea required a ferry ride. We had to take our bikes onto a small sand bank in the estuary to be picked up. The tide was coming in rapidly and the first group arrived at the pick-up almost dry while the second group needed to wade.
The pub had excellent food and a great view. This was a brilliant day out and thanks to Maurice and Martin for their organisation
Maurice, Charles (never underestimate him, as he warns on his shirt), Rod, Alan, Simon and Martin all set off from The Red Cow in Chrishall on this fine summer’s afternoon knowing that it would be a test for Maurice, whose left knee has been giving him issues recently, but not expecting Alan, Rod and Simon to be in testing mode too of a different sort.
In preparation for his forthcoming French ride with Simon, Lawrence and Martin, Alan came with his Giant touring bike to test it out on the hills. It has a monstrously low bottom gear which should see him climb all those French hills in the Somme and Normandy with ease, and with tyres which will soak up the bumps on river and canal bike paths.
So off we went on a circuit devised by Maurice taking in local lanes to Brent Pelham and back including, once again, our favourite bridleway from Builden End over the watershed to Lower Langley.
Rod looked at one stage as if he was planning a bank robbery with a fast escape on his e-bike but he was actually testing out an anti-fly swallowing device, namely a mask to keep ’em out.
And then there was Simon, testing out a smart looking shirt and clearly determined to take on the French at their own game:
The school run was over, the lanes were quiet and we enjoyed a very pleasant cruise. Thankfully, Maurice’s knee held out.
This is where we went:
Thanks to Maurice for planning and organising the route. We hope his knee gets sorted soon. And thanks to Grandpa Charles for most of the photos.
With Maurice sunning himself on a yacht in Majorca and Andrew still suffering from his recent fall, this left Jenni, Rod, Alan, Simon and Martin to kick off the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee week of celebrations. And where better to start than outside Charles’s house in Chrishall, whose display of bunting set the standard for all around – no larger Union Jack was seen during the 18 miles of this ride. Well done Charles, but sorry you were unable to join us.
Starting for a change from the Ickleton Lion, this is where we went:
The familiar byway from Builden End towards Langley Lower Green always seems to result in a discussion about the watershed at the top of the hill, which was news to Jenni. All very theoretical, however, on this warm dry day as there was no sign of any water in the ditch trying to decide whether to head for the Thames or the Wash. Let’s hope that one day the water will return.
In Langley Upper Green the group paused to take a look at the village church, St. John the Evangelist, which is easy to miss as it is up a no through road, The Causeway, just before the village green.
Cycling on, it wasn’t long before we reached Strethall where Alan peeled off to head for home. Jenni was also running a bit late and so she headed off on returning to Ickleton which left Simon, Rod and Martin to sample some excellent ale in the Lion.
As the starting time for Monday’s ride approached it was clear that this would be a day when many Windmillers had found better things to do and as 4pm arrived only Nick and Rod with their e-bikes were at The Tally-Ho at Barkway for the mass start. Leaving on time we made rapid progress to the only forced stop of the day. Having travelled no more than 5 yards we were confronted by a Red light, the junction of Nuthampstead Road was under repair, a quick visual assessment and with no traffic or workmen in site we quickly side-stepped the red light and continued the ride.
The planned route was through Anstey, Brent Pelham, Deer’s Green, skirting Clavering and on to Upper Langley, Dudenhoe End, Chrishall and back to Barkway. However, with only Nick and Rod who had both pedalled to the start, the route was cut short and re-routed from Upper Langley.
We came that way
Nick had the “good fortune” or so some say, of receiving a deposit from an over flying pigeon just before we reached Upper Langley which was the highlight of the ride. Presumably one he’d upset by chasing it away from his garden.
The weather was dry although cool for May, the countryside looked lovely with the crops growing well, let’s hope there is a good harvest this year. We split at Lower Langley, with Nick making his way back to Meesden while I made my way home to Royston.
Let’s hope we can attract more riders for future Monday rides as this may be the smallest Windmill rode ever blogged..
Victor, Sandra, Roger, Alan, Ric, Rod, Geoff, Brian, Nigel, Martin, Rach, Hazel, Charles and Cheryl, all featured above, plus Jeremy who took the photo, set off in two groups from The Three Horseshoes in Stapleford on a ride organised by Brian in the absence of both Maurice (yachting around the Med) and Andrew (still recovering from his recent fall from a ladder). Deborah was hoping to take part but sadly had a family bereavement to deal with. It was great to welcome Rach as a new member and we hope that Hazel and Rach’s friend Cheryl will join us again on future rides.
Jeremy led the first group on this cultural outing but, mysteriously, Brian’s second group overtook the first group somewhere between Grantchester and Cambridge. But all was well as both groups met up at a key point on the route overlooking Kings College Chapel.
A famous scholar at Kings College was the economist John Maynard Keynes whose room was in Webb’s Court, close to the building to the right of the Chapel in the above photo. Keynes’s most famous work was The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money which created ‘Keynesian Economics’ and still widely taught today. But it was the American economist Milton Friedman who attacked the central Keynesian idea that consumption is the key to economic recovery as trying to “spend your way out of a recession.” Unlike Keynes, Friedman believed that government spending and racking up debt eventually leads to inflation—a rise in prices that lessens the value of money and wages—which can be disastrous unless accompanied by underlying economic growth. The stagflation of the 1970s was a case in point: it was paradoxically a period with high unemployment and low production, but also high inflation and high-interest rates. Are we heading in the same direction now? Perhaps this just proves that Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator and explorer, was also an economist because he set off not knowing where he was going and when he arrived he didn’t know where he was.
Enough of all this academic claptrap I hear you say and get on with the ride!
So, having traversed Trumpington Meadows and the bike path from Grantchester, the said Windmillers then wiggled their way out of town through tiny lanes that only Brian and Jeremy know about. Hands up those who could repeat the route without looking at a map!
Heading north-west and despite a stiff breeze it wasn’t long before we reached the new development of Northstowe, passing through Girton, Oakington and Longstanton on the way and submitting our backsides to some bumpy bike paths at times. But the smell of good coffee was in the air as we pulled into the Willingham Auction Rooms site where we were served briskly and efficiently by the staff.
The return leg was more or less dead straight once we hit the busway towards Cambridge but the stiff South Westerly breeze and the exposed Fenland landscape made it tough going at times. Taking the new Chisholm Trail back into the centre of town was once again a pleasure – a delightful traffic free route for pedestrians and cyclists – after which we picked up the southern busway to Addenbrookes Hospital and the DNA path back to The Three Horseshoes.
Group B somehow managed to get to the bar first for much needed refreshment and to order their lunch and there was quite a wait before Group A arrived, when a minor prang between Rach and Charles took place at the entrance to the car park but no damage was done. The food was wonderful and all present thanked Brian for organising another of his delightful Cambridge outings.
This is where we went:
Thanks also to photographers Hazel, Charles, Jeremy and Brian.
Not a lot has been recorded of a horrific fall encountered by Simon when he hit the opposite of a pothole, namely the mini-volcano above, on an otherwise smooth cycle path whilst returning recently from Reach Fair. He flew into the air, just like a plane on the nearby runway of Cambridge airport, but crash landed with a crunch on his collar bone and elbow, both of which have troubled him since. The collar bone may well have cracked, according to the pain reports provided by Simon, and this is what the elbow looked like:
It beggars belief how Cambridge Council can allow such a dangerous obstacle to remain on a cycle path and we hope it is repaired before further injuries are sustained by cyclists. In the meantime there are rumours that Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Run may well be acting on behalf of Simon for damage to vital parts of his body, and his phone which was wrecked.
The good news is that Simon didn’t stop cycling, despite the discomfort, and this ride seemed to indicate that a full recovery had been made through having a celebratory swing from the lychgate of All Saints Church in Sandon:
The moral of this tale? Watch out there’s a pothole / mini-volcano about (everywhere).
Besides Simon, setting off earlier from The Tally Ho! in Barkway were Maurice, Nick, Rod, Alan, Victor, Martin and a surprise visitor Tim Goode who rode with us a couple of times a few years ago. Tim happened to be passing The Tally Ho! on a flashy new e-bike whilst the Windmillers were sheltering from a short shower of rain, paid his fiver and joined in.
Perfect weather soon unfolded once the shower had passed and so the 8 set off in one group – 4 e-bikers and 4 pedal pushers. This is where we went:
Whizzing past John and Lyn Bagrie’s house, with a cheery shout of hello, it wasn’t long before we descended to Buntingford and then up to Wyddial, passing by Visions of Loveliness Lane (ask Andrew for the details). Nick peeled off back to Meesden and the remaining group headed back to The Tally Ho! via Nuthampsted to enjoy some much needed refreshment. And who should join us but John Bagrie who ticked us off for not stopping for a drink as we passed his house. Next time, John! Thanks for the offer.
Alan was celebrating his birthday but had to shoot off to an early dinner engagement but no doubt he’ll receive a reminder the next time we see him!
Thanks once again to Maurice for planning and organising the ride.
Cycling in Suffolk is always a treat – quiet lanes, beautiful countryside and pretty houses and cottages painted in hues of red, pink and white. But look closer and there’s a colour that seems to be all the rage at the moment – yellow ochre.
Setting off from The Plough at Rede after having ordered lunch over a cup of coffee, nine windmillers comprising Maurice, Howard, Roger, Simon, Graham, Alan, Rod, Nigel and Martin decided to cycle in one group to start with, but that only lasted until Foxearth when bits started falling off Martin’s bike.
There’s so much to see in Suffolk that it’s difficult to keep one’s eye on the road, which is a bit dodgy these days as roads everywhere have more potholes than ever before and the Chancellor has nothing left in his kitty with which to mend them, partly due to the naughty MP for Newmarket spending millions on unused face masks and protective clothing supplied by his mates and which is now past its use-by date. (How can a face mask be past its use-by date? Ed.)
Maurice spotted a couple of hares having a bout of fisticuffs on the roof of a thatched cottage which prompted Graham and Roger to have a go at each other too, but in a more friendly fashion:
Foxearth came into view just as Martin thumped into a large unseen pothole which ejected his heavy water bottle out of its holder and onto the road where it was recovered by sweeper-up Alan and replaced with no damage done to bike or rider. Not long afterwards a smaller pothole then ejected Martin’s trusty old Garmin eTrex 30 which had given sterling service over the past 10 years but which ended up being tragically killed by two cars, both of whom ran over it. Once again, Alan came to the rescue but, sadly, the look on its face said it all:
The coffee stop was once again at Café Como in Brent Eleigh, south of Lavenham, where it was pleasant to sit outside in their nice garden and soak up the sun.
Avoiding the main road into Lavenham which from previous experience we decided was too busy and dangerous, Maurice took us on an Easterly loop around and back into Lavenham via Preston which was pleasantly quiet. In Brent Eleigh, another yellow ochre building was spotted, this time a very run down 15th / 16th property which had seen better days and in need of more than a slight touch of tlc.
Lavenham is a difficult place to ride through without stopping and so Martin and Alan eased up and sauntered gently down the High Street.
Suffolk is famed for the colour of its houses and cottages but, in fact, this is a fairly recent phenomenon. Plain lime wash was the usual colour but there are reports of red ochre being used on barns in the 17th century, purportedly made with blood or with sloes. So yellow ochre turns out not to be particularly traditional but perhaps just faddish today.
Cycling out of Lavenham past the impressive church is always a sight to behold, this time flying the Ukrainian flag on the top of its tower:
It was at this point that the third item fell off Martin’s bike, this time a pedal toe clip but Alan was not around to pick it up as hunger had got the better of him. It was not a problem to re-fix it temporarily with a spare bolt and he was soon on his way again, as a very distant tail ender.
Hartest hill was descended for a change and what should be seen at the bottom but another yellow ochre cottage, plus the house in the featured photo above overlooking Hartest village green.
A headwind made progress slow towards Hawkedon where it proved impossible to not stop and take a pic of another magnificent church, St Mary, sitting in a field of buttercups – the only church in Suffolk to be surrounded by green on all four sides.
Lunch was in full swing back at The Plough by the time your correspondent arrived, happy at having sauntered through the lanes.
Thanks to Maurice for planning and organising the route and to Graham for some of the photos. Graham not only rode to Rede (that’s a mouthful), leaving at 6.30am but declined a lift back from Martin, clocking up an impressive 100 miles for the day. Well done, Graham. This is where we went:
Maurice incorporated almost every local byway into this ride but whilst getting some gravel and pothole practice in before leaving the car park of The Red Cow he fell off his bike in a rather classy slow motion sort of way, gaining a few scratches in the process. Windmillers soon came to the rescue and hauled him and his bike up (getting out from underneath a heavy e-bike is no mean feat), and no other damage was done other than to his ego. All agreed that pushing bikes across loose gravel was probably the best bet.
Accompanied by Nick, Simon, Graham, Rod (just back from Oz), Alan and Martin, Maurice then led us on a tour of local highways and byways. This is where we went:
Byway no. 1 soon came into view – the lovely climb from Builden End over to Langley Lower Green, passing a Wash / Thames watershed ditch on the way. Not too bumpy either thanks to Essex CC’s upgrading of byways in recent years. Heading towards Brent Pelham before turning left to Roast Green and up past Poppy’s Barn brought us to Byway no. 2, a former Roman Road which joined Braughing with Great Chesterford. This is the only part which remains that can be walked / cycled, and in the tramlines of Roman wagons and chariots too. What heritage we have on our doorstep!
The featured photo above of modern-day Roman soldiers, a.k.a Windmillers, was taken at the exit of the byway near Cooper’s End.
Cycling through Duddenhoe End and up to Littlebury Green, where Simon is busy restoring a former quarry into a nature reserve with the help of other volunteers, we whizzed past his house and on towards Byway no. 3 – the pleasant route alongside the woods between Catmere End and Elmdon, pausing to admire the Jersey cattle at Freewood Farm.
Cycling past Simon O’s house in Elmdon, which seemed all locked up, made us think of what he has been going through recently and to hope he is doing ok. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we enjoyed a beer on a summer’s evening in his and Ollie’s back garden, where Simon proudly showed us his very own outdoor bar. I want one! I want it now!
Finally, Byway no. 4 was meant to take us directly from Elmdon to Chrishall, which it did for Rod who was out front with hearing aids turned off / not working, but the remaining group decided to take Graham’s detour to the north end of Chrishall through the infamous ‘big dipper’ and soft gravel – all because Martin reported a tree down on the intended route which Charles had promised to chain-saw away before heading off on his sailing trip. But he hadn’t – the tree was still there but Rod managed to get his e-bike around it somehow and got back to The Red Cow long before the others.
And so ended a very pleasant tour of local highways and byways, except perhaps for Nick who said he still suffers from a bashed up knee from many years ago and so prefers the highways to the byways.
It was great to have Rod back with us again after his long stay in Australia, where both he and his wife had Covid at one stage and had to lock themselves away. He seemed relieved to be back in a country with Covid on the wane, no floods, no nasty spiders and no crocodiles, and celebrated by buying a round of drinks. Cheers Rod!
But it was sad not to have Andrew with us and we hope he makes a steady recovery from his recent ladder accident.
At 00.39 on 5 May we received the sad news from Andrew that he was in A&E following a nasty fall from a ladder. Not only was he on the longest ladder, squares 28 – 84 on the above board, whilst attempting to mend his conservatory with a mastic gun, but he landed on the longest snake which took him quickly down from square 87 to 24, via a concrete post on the way. Ouch! That resulted in two fractured ribs, a damaged back and a month’s supply of codeine phosphate.
But, Andrew being Andrew, he was out of hospital after 24 hours having got to know almost everyone in A&E in the meantime and was lunching with Simon, Lawrence and Martin at The Red Cow on the 6th, albeit considerably the worse for wear, and by the 8th he was marshaling a sprint event at Debden with Howard and Martin with the assistance of his new friend, codeine phosphate. He was very lucky not to have been injured more seriously and we wish him well for a speedy recovery, not least because he has a 300 mile ride coming up in France in mid-June.
So this news created a sombre start to a ride from The Chestnut Tree at West Wratting, with much talk and personal experiences of falling off ladders and how to prevent such disasters. Ladder stays top and bottom and / or a ladder assistant seem to be the main recommendations, and wearing a cycle helmet might also help.
News of Andrew’s fall produced many more expressions of ‘Be careful’ than usual from concerned spouses which seemed a bit strange given that we weren’t going to be climbing ladders all day but just cruising around our quiet lanes on a perfect Spring day. And that’s just what happened as 13 Windmillers set off after having had coffee and placing their lunch orders, led by Maurice and followed in two groups by Geoff, Alan, Victor, Brian, Jeremy, Deborah, Graham, Simon, Roger, Ken, Howard and Martin.
The route was a familiar one – the reverse of one done recently in storm force winds, taking us this time anticlockwise via Horseheath, Castle Camps, Baythorne End, Kedington and Withersfield. The conditions were blissful – what a contrast with a few weeks ago. Here is the route:
Coffee at Tarka’s Café in Baythorne End was as good and efficient as usual, but this time sitting outside in the sunshine whilst hearing an update from Andrew in A&E about his scary and painful experience – a blow by blow account indeed.
Back at The Chestnut Tree after an uneventful ride – just as well because Andrew’s event was enough for one day – we enjoyed the usual excellent fare washed down with fine ales and soft drinks.
Thanks to Maurice and absent Andrew for organising the ride and we look forward to the Deputy Dawg joining us again once he is fully recovered.
The four cyclist Alan, Andrew, Charles and Nick departed from the Red Cow at the appointed hour. The actual number who were going to ride had fluctuated through out the day. We had thought about calling off the ride but as it was a nice day and it was the first ride after the clubs 11th birthday ride we decided to go ahead.
With Maurice being away the ride was led by Andrew.
The ride took us down and through Duxford, Hinxton, Ickleton, Littlebury Green, Elmdon and back up to the Red Cow at Chrishall.
The four riders
The ride passed without incident or really of anything of note until we were passing the meadow between Hinxton and Ickleton, then one of the cyclists spotted a familiar looking walker. Yes, it was Martin who, only a few hours before hand had dropped out of the ride, claiming he had a zoom meeting to attend.
Martin the walker, looking sheepish.
The cyclists greeted Martin with calls that he should be on his bike. Martin smiled back sheepishly, like a young lad having been caught doing something.
Friendly banter was exchanged with Martin over the river. After a few minutes (much to Martin’s relief) the cyclists headed off.
The ride passed without any further thing of note.
Thanks to Andrew for planning and leading the ride.
It is 11 years since The Windmill Club was established and we still have the dedicated support of founder Maurice, seen zooming onwards at a rate of knots in the photo above on this Birthday ride, and deputy-Dawg Andrew, who decided a rest was needed to smell the bluebells in woods near Nuthampstead. We are indeed very fortunate to have all the hard work taken away from us in terms of ride planning and organisation by those two stalwarts. Helmets off to both of them.
We were fortunate too in having perfect weather for this 11th Birthday ride. Seventeen Windmillers signed up for an outing around local lanes, ten starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall, where Andrew had done a special deal with Toby the landlord for lunch, and six from Ickleton which proved convenient for the gang from Shelford, Stapleford and Ickleton, generally known as the Ickleton mob. And the seventeenth, Deborah, joined for a late breakfast at Poppy’s Barn where we all stopped for coffee, at various times. More anon.
Those starting at The Red Cow were Maurice, Andrew, Geoff, Charles, Simon, Graham, Ric, Roger, Alan and Chris whilst those starting in Ickleton – Ken, Brian, Howard, Tom, Jeremy and Martin were put to work before setting off attempting to heave out the rest of Martin’s stubborn walnut tree stump, but to no avail despite Howard’s idea that a bit of leverage might help.
Having given up on the tree stump the Ickleton mob set off a bit earlier than expected and cruised up Coploe Hill with the wind behind to meet up with Ken who had made an earlier start. This meant that we were ahead of Maurice’s group and Andrew’s group and would be first in line for the coffee at Poppy’s Barn. Yippee! Little did we know what was going on behind us……… but Alan has very kindly supplied the details:
Group A or was it group B regrouped at the junction of Bastardo and the B1039. Just as we set off Maurice announced that he thought he had a puncture. How could this be the rest of the group were all thinking after all his bike was equipped with Schwalbe Marathon tyres which are claimed to be the most puncture resistant tyres on the market.
Sure enough the front tyre was flat.
Never mind with Alan, Geoff, Maurice, Rod and Roger with our many years of experience we would soon have this sorted at a sprint.
With the wheel and tube removed the next job was to get a new tube. Once the tyre had been checked for sharps, none were found but a cut was. Maurice rummaged around in his saddle back (which we all know is a bit like Hermione’s bag in the Harry Potter film it contains everything you need, including a shot of port & brandy for medicinal purposes) and produced a tube of the correct size but also fitted with a Schrader valve. Unfortunately the hole in the wheel was for a Presto valve. No matter how hard we tried it was not going to fit. By this time group B or was it C arrived.
More tubes where offered but they were either too big or too small.
Roger came to the rescue with some super patches. As it appeared all was under control some of the group resumed the ride leaving a few behind to carry on the repair.
The hole was soon identified, patched tyre and wheel fitted on we were on our way. The repair had taken over 15 minutes somewhat longer than the club record of just over 4 minutes.
The hill up to Arkesden was tackled but on the descent Maurice announced that the tyre had once more gone flat.
Examination of the tube showed that the super patches were not as super as they claimed to be. Fortunately Charles had joined the group and as we would expect from ex-army personnel a tube of the correct size and valve was produced. It was fitted to the tyre and pumped and pumped but the tyre refused to inflate. Inspection showed the brand new tube had a faulty seal on the tyre. A second tube was produced fitted and pumped. This time it held its pressure and so we were soon on our way.
So the Schwalbe marathon was not fixed at a sprint but with a total time of over 35 minutes, it was a marathon repair.
The Ickleton mob got wind of this once Andrew’s Group C had arrived making us feel somewhat guilty that we hadn’t helped, but then too many cooks spoil the broth, don’t they? Eventually, and looking somewhat puncture-worn, Maurice’s group arrived and soon got stuck into excellent coffee and cakes at Poppy’s Barn.
Things improved after leaving Poppy’s Barn with no other incidents to report other than soaking in the smell of Spring all around and enjoying the sounds of nesting birds. Charles’s hi-tech camera snapped away happily every 3 seconds, just like a bird singing, until the battery ran out:
……….whilst Simon’s technique is reminiscent of the old days of 35mm film when each shot cost a few bob to produce and so each photo takes some time to create, but produces marvellous results:
Maurice’s route was a perfect combination of typical Monday rides to form a circuit of 31 miles taking in familiar villages such as Ickleton, Arkesden, Stickling Green, Langley Upper and Lower Greens, Brent Pelham, Anstey, Nuthampstead, Great Chishill and back to Chrishall. This is where we went:
Entering Great Chishill, a once-in-a-lifetime event was taking place when a fork lift truck was seen carrying a recently cast bell towards the church entrance. But that was not all – the five original bells, four dating back to 1686 and the fifth made in 1841 – had all been renovated and delivered back the same morning, looking very smart on the path to the church door.
Back at The Red Cow it was good to be joined at lunch by Bridget, Ann and Hazel and we all tucked into fish and chips, chicken and ham pie, or a burger, all of which were pronounced excellent, and washed down with equally excellent ales, wines and soft drinks, all of which were kindly paid for by Tom who had just celebrated his 70th birthday. Cheers, Tom!
And so ended a marvellous birthday ride, but not without Maurice’s puncture incidents which must already place him in the running for the 2022 puncture prize at the Christmas lunch.
Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their wonderful organization, to fellow blogger Alan for his report and to photographers Simon, Charles and Brian.
This was almost the reverse of last week’s ride when the tortoises decided to explore the Roman Road byway from Butts Green, near Poppy’s Barn, to Cooper’s End, primarily to get shelter from the wind. Maurice, being one of the hares on that ride, heard such good reports he decided to explore it for himself, this time as Centurian-in-Chief accompanied by his fellow Centurians Andrew, Alan, Charles, Victor, Graham and Martin.
Setting off from The Red Cow, it didn’t take long to reach Cooper’s End despite the long climb up Cogmore Hill to Duddenhoe End. The initial stretch of the Roman road is paved, not in cobblestones but in very smooth tarmac which Roman soldiers would have marvelled at. Quite how a dead-end country lane came to be given such treatment by Essex County Council is a mystery although a recently retired Tory MP, now a Baron in the House of Lords (who once repaid a £12,000 gardening bill he had claimed on Parliamentary expenses) just happens to live at Cooper’s End…………. (Enough of this tittle tattle. Ed.)
At Cosh Farm the smooth tarmac ends abruptly after which a decent surface of road planings continues, not in a dead straight line as shown on the OS map but instead wiggles its way over a ford and then down through the trees as far as Butts Green where it meets the Langley Upper Green – Clavering road. The course of the Roman road actually continues onwards towards Brent Pelham (but not on a public right of way) until it joins the lane we frequently cycle along between there and Meesden. Presumably it carried on towards Braughing and then joined Ermine Street which goes south to London and North to Godmanchester via Royston. Going north east from Cooper’s End would have taken it to Great Chesterford, a major Roman garrison town and where remains are still frequently found.
It was good to have Victor with us who was unfamiliar with the local lanes we use on Monday rides but soon appreciated why we like them so much. We are extraordinarily lucky in having such a peaceful and beautiful area to ride around.
This time there was no road block between Violet’s Lane and Brent Pelham caused by sludge lorries queuing up to deposit their loads, as there was last time, and so we continued to cruise peacefully around until ascending the hills towards Great Chishill and thence to The Red Cow.
Maurice had arranged once again for chips to be available but with Alan having peeled off in Great Chishill and Graham and Andrew having to head for home, this left Maurice, Charles and Martin to scoff large helpings of chips and mayo, washed down with the usual excellent beers on offer.
48mph or 48kph? Who really cares whether they were imperial or metric gusts of wind forecasted for this ride? Both are Force 8 + on ye olde Beaufort scale and that’s just how it turned out to be for 14 hardy Windmillers as they set out from The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting on a three county circuit of lanes in Cambs, Suffolk and Essex.
Maurice led the first group with Ric, Charles, Nigel, Deborah, Alan, Victor and Jeremy in tow, followed shortly afterwards by Andrew, Howard, Brian, Simon, Graham and Martin. The outward leg via Great Wratting was a dream with only the occasional sideways gust reminding us of what we had in store on the return leg.
Having passed St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Kedington on many occasions, it was decided to stop on this ride and take a look inside what is commonly known as ‘The Westminster Abbey of Suffolk’, and we were not disappointed. The interior pays homage to the Barnardiston family, from the nearby hamlet of the same name, and is brimming with tombs of early family members, some of which are covered in graffiti dating back to the 1700s. (Some more recent graffiti includes the word Debbie but we didn’t see Deborah scratching away whilst we were there.)
Moving on, it wasn’t long before Tarka’s Café came into view at Baythorne End – always a good place to stop for excellent coffee and oversized cakes.
As Group B was leaving the café who should be seen returning but poor Deborah whose Group A had shot off at speed and not waited for her at the first junction. She was warmly welcomed into the fold of Group B who wouldn’t dream of such behaviour.
The first section of the return leg was quite well sheltered by trees and hedges and so it was only on the exposed parts that we felt the full force of the 48mph / 48kph gusts, most probably the former judging by the speed of the cloud shadows whipping across the fields towards us.
The worst part by far was the stretch between West Wickham and the turning to West Wratting where it was tough going even pedalling downhill.
All agreed back at the pub that it had been the windiest ever Windmill Club ride. But where was Sandra, someone was heard to say? She would have loved living up to her name of Storm Sandra.
It was great to have Geoff join us for lunch, which was brilliant as always. The Chestnut Tree never lets us down.
Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to Charles and Brian for some of the photos, more of which are on The Windmill Club site on Google. Thanks also to Jeremy for the WWWWW inspiration.
It didn’t matter whether you were a hare or a tortoise, there was a great selection of beers on tap at The Red Cow in Chrishall after the ride, and some great chips too, specially cooked for the six Windmillers on this ride around the lanes.
Maurice, Graham and Sandra (the hares), Andrew, Simon and Martin (the tortoises) all set off together at 4.00pm but the hares eventually charged ahead whilst the tortoises pootled along planning their forthcoming French ride, amongst other things, and how to avoid the strong wind on the return leg.
After a very pleasant anti-clockwise circuit via Great Chishill, Nuthampsted, Anstey, Brent Pelham and Starlings Green, the tortoises had other plans shortly after passing Poppy’s Barn when they decided to take the Roman Road byway to Coopers End, and to then rejoin the route at Duddenhoe End. Despite the recent rain this turned out to be a very pleasant route on a good surface of road planings but with a ford to cross at one point, so best done after a spell of dry weather.
Back at The Red Cow, Graham peeled off, having been on the road for the best part of 4 hours, leaving the others to have a beer and tuck into the excellent chips.
Thanks, Maurice, for planning the ride and chips, and Andrew for getting us to the starting line. 4.00pm seems to be a popular time to start Monday rides and so we’re hoping for a good gathering on future Mondays now that the weather is improving. All we need now is less wind.
Essex put on its finest Spring clothes for 11 negative (so to speak) Windmillers who assembled at The Cock in Henham for a figure of 8 ride to Finchingfield and back. Covid was all around, with Simon unable to attend due to catching the dreaded lurgy, and Martin said a plague had descended on his house, thanks to snotty nosed grandchildren rushing about whilst currently residing in his house. He was positively negative but this didn’t stop Windmillers keeping a safe distance from him, understandably. And both Graham and Charles had reported large dollops of family / friends with Covid, which seems to indicate we’ll all follow in the pioneering footsteps of Brian and Roger sooner or later.
Having assembled to order lunch beforehand, Maurice led the way followed by Ric, Sandra, Nigel and Ken. Then a few minutes later, Andrew, Roger, Deborah, Howard, Jeremy and Martin set off at a more steady pace.
Determined to keep his distance from any would-be Covid carriers, or possibly wanting to compete with Charles for the 2022 sartorial sock award, Andrew donned some ferociously worded socks and produced a V sign to anyone who got close, particularly Martin.
Maurice’s route took us through lovely quiet lanes where the early onset of Spring could be enjoyed – hedgerows bursting with growth, daffoldils everywhere, cherry blossom on show and even fields of oilseed rape starting to turn yellow. Maybe there’s a shock in store for all that foliage, not to mention the birds who seem hell bent on mating and building nests?
Andrew was socially distancing on the return leg, Martin was stopping to snap away and so various routes were taken on the way back. Andrew whizzed by the junction in Thaxted but realised his error and U-turned whilst Martin who followed on a few minutes later opted for a shorter route back to Henham and got there before the rest of the group, clocking up the shortest distance of the day of 29 miles. The longest ride of the day was achieved by Ric who cycled from Harston, clocking up around 70 miles in all. Well done Ric!
Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride.
News of the tragic fire which destroyed the Grade 2 listed Axe and Compasses pub in Arkesden began to circulate shortly after 11.45am on 27 March, just before 150 diners were due to celebrate Mother’s Day. Popular with Windmillers, both as a stopping point whilst on a ride and for meals with family and friends, the pub will be sorely missed by many people. The moussaka was legendary – how far do we have to go now to enjoy such good minced lamb, aubergines and tomatoes with a cheese sauce on top?
It was therefore appropriate for seven Windmillers to pay their respects, namely Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Simon, Charles, Graham and Martin, who started the ride at The Red Cow in Chrishall before passing through Arkesden.
Ten fire engines arrived from Saffron Walden, Newport and Stansted to tackle the blaze but were unable to save the building due to the rapid spread of the fire through a thatched roof. Only part of the building remained, on the right hand side, but this was severely damaged by water penetration. Our sympathies go to the Christou family who have run the pub for over 30 years, dishing up several tons of moussaka during that time.
Moving on through Clavering and Starlings Green it wasn’t long before we took a left down Violets Lane and through the remains of some thick mud before heading towards Brent Pelham, only to find our path blocked by a huge sludge lorry attempting to head towards us. Quite how he was planning to attempt the corner at Violets Lane, we didn’t stop to enquire but we managed to just squeeze past. All became clear when we then came across what must be a record jam of sludge lorries in Hertfordshire – not just one but seven in total!
Writing about sludge brings back memories of an awful Limerick once heard about sewage:
There once was a man named McBride. Who fell in the sewer and died. The same day his brother Fell in another, And they were interred side by side.
(Love the last line!)
Back at The Red Cow, Andrew and Graham headed back home, Graham having been on the road since 2.00pm when he was spotted on Coploe Hill by Martin, who was tending his allotment. Graham was followed by Andrew, leaving the remaining five to have a drink and a laugh. And thanks to Charles for buying a round of drinks, and for some of the photos.
Thanks to Maurice as always for organising a pleasant route and Andrew for his organisation.
……. And the grass is riz (I wonder where the birdies is ?)
After last week’s abandonment due to the threatened bad weather and the waterlogged roads (which still didn’t deter three Windmillers from taking to their bikes and it certainly didn’t deter the many more that turned up at the Cock Inn for lunch ! – I digress), it was business as usual this week. Maurice had laid on gorgeous spring weather for a jaunt round the quiet lanes of Suffolk.
Maurice, Howard, Sandra, Simon (recently returned from Tenerife), Jeremy, Tom, Geoff, Victor, Alan, Sandra and Charles pitched up at the ever welcoming Plough at Rede for coffee and to place food orders.
Graham turned up a few minutes after the scheduled start time complaining about bike mechanical issues and relieved that the team had waited for him before heading off.
The route passed mainly without incident except for Tom, cycling with the last group, who suffered a speedily repaired front wheel puncture on the normally traffic free road to Somerton.
On this occasion we were passed by a couple of horse riders and a highly amused delivery driver who reported on having just passed our colleagues ahead, puffing and blowing loudly on Hartest Hill. To be fair, Hartest Hill is reputedly the steepest hill in Suffolk with sections of 12% gradient.
Easy riding from there to Lavenham, famous to all Harry Potter fans as the setting for Godric’s Hollow in the films. No coffee here, though. Instead it was back to the lanes with a gentle breeze now behind us in glorious sunshine to the Rushbrook Arms. Here the majority partook of coffees in the late morning warmth (only one taker for beer, who shall remain nameless).
The last short delightful section took us back to Rede and a warm welcome for lunch and ales. Lets hope for more Spring days like this one.