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16 March. Springwatch. 21 miles.

Thanks to having eagle-eyed Sandra with us on this ride we were treated to a springtime display of wildlife as we cruised around the lanes. Starting from The Bull once again at Lower Langley and led by Maurice, the others joining him were Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin – 7 in all.

This is where we went, anti-clockwise:

Bull circuit 16 March 2020

The first creature that Sandra spotted, shortly after leaving, was standing on a bank clad in hi-viz yellow and coughing furiously as we went past. Hey, that’s not an animal we said, it’s the self-isolating Corona Man himself, Andrew. Indeed it was but we didn’t stop for a chat in case he got too close. We expected him to tag along behind at an acceptable distance but he was heading in the opposite direction. Luckily, it seems Andrew did not pick up the virus whilst visiting Northern Italy for a skiing holiday but he and Lindsay were forced to self-isolate for 2 weeks on their return, and today he was half way through.

Proceeding on towards Shaftenhoe End Sandra then spotted a large herd of deer, as big as the one seen last week at Catmere End but without the albinos – frequently seen around Elmdon but very rare. In the US it is illegal in many states to shoot albino deer as they are estimated to be as rare as 1 in 100,000.

Passing through Barkway and Reed we crossed the A10 and headed towards Therfield before turning left towards Buckland.

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Stopping to enjoy the spring sunshine near Therfield. 

The star spot by Sandra was a massive barn owl, with a head the size of a football and a large wingspan, which took off just as we were approaching Buckland. Sadly no time to take a photo. Then Sandra spotted two more large herds of deer, grazing quite close to each other, by which time we were convinced that she could easily join the BBC Springwatch team.

Re-crossing the A10 at a not particularly pleasant junction we meandered on admiring the countryside which was bursting with vigour. Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a drink outside, keeping our distance, until it got so cold we just had to occupy the empty public bar to warm up!

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Keeping our distance outside The Bull

Thanks to the rapid spread of the Corona virus, there was an acceptance that this could be the last Windmill Club ride for a while, which turned out to be the case, but we agreed that we would find ways and means of still getting out on our bikes in the weeks ahead.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride and organising us.

Martin

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9 March. Corona ditty ride. 30 miles.

The Corona virus, what virus? Nothing stops fit and healthy Windmillers from getting out on a ride, but we were not to know that Andrew would soon be the first to self-isolate having been evacuated from his ski resort near Turin following a total shut down of Italy. So, taking The Bull by the horns six Windmillers comprising Maurice, Rod, Simon, Charles, Nick and Martin gathered at Langley Lower Green for a pleasant ride around quiet and dry lanes.

This is where we went, clockwise:

Bull circuit 9 March 2020

This week there was an equal number of e-bikes to traditional bikes but e-bikers are generally very considerate of their hard pedalling companions, with Rod always at the back as a sweeper upper. A few tow ropes would have come in handy too, particularly on the climb to Great Chishill.

The weather was kind and so we made good progress to Elmdon and beyond, stopping for a breather at Catmere End where a large herd of deer was spotted munching away on tasty young oil seed rape:

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A herd of deer

Nick peeled off towards Meesden at the end of the ride whilst the others returned to The Bull and enjoyed a pint with the locals around the bar. Charles left a bit earlier to go Scottish Country dancing. Martin claimed he was still going to Les Gets on Thursday and would miss Maurice’s birthday party ride which prompted Maurice to buy him a pint. But having cancelled the trip on Wednesday Maurice generously bought him another pint on Thursday. Good chap!

Here’s a little ditty I’ve composed that we might all sing along to on our future rides, using the music and some of the lyrics from the TV Corona advertisements of the 50s, which some of us vulnerable people might remember. It goes like this:

The Corona Man he’s in your street

The Corona Man you don’t want to meet

So wash your hands several times a day

And the Corona Man will fuck off.

Thanks, Maurice for organising the ride!

Martin

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12 March. Celebrating Maurice’s birthday. 30 miles.

There’s not a lot to celebrate at present what with the Corona virus spreading like wildfire, the stock market crashing and jobs at risk. But it was great that 13 Windmillers were able to gather together, fit and able, to celebrate Maurice’s 76th birthday and to join him on a windy day around windy lanes (geddit?), and for another 5 to join us at lunch time. The thought of Pat’s pies and curries at the Pig and Abbott in Abington Piggotts and a birthday pint from Maurice was an added incentive, and having coffee and biscuits before setting off is always a bonus.

Sadly, we were without Andrew who was in enforced self-isolation for 2 weeks with Lindsey having had their skiing holiday curtailed in Sestriere in Northern Italy due to the Corona virus. So it was Ken, Rod, Ric, Roger, Simon T, Deborah, Graham, Geoff, Howard, Charles, Mike, David and Martin (having cancelled his ski holiday) who accompanied Maurice on a delightful if somewhat blowy day around the lanes to the north west of Abington Piggotts, a cunning route devised by Maurice to reduce the impact of the wind as much as possible.

This is where most of us went, clockwise, but some decided to cut the corner off to get to the coffee stop at Waresley first, either because they were out front and hadn’t read the map or because they were in need of an urgent caffeine fix, or both:

Maurice's birthday ride 12 March 2020

Some of the strongest wind was experienced soon after the start whilst heading towards Steeple Morden from Litlington, and so an early stop at the Memorial for the 355th Fighter Group provided welcome relief:

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Back row from the left: David, Mike, Simon, Roger, birthday boy Maurice, Ric, Geoff, Ken, Charles, Rod. Front row: Howard, Graham, Deborah

Continuing on, things soon improved after Steeple Morden as we headed north west towards Cockayne Hatley where another stop was made to take in the view:

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Cockayne Hatley in Bedfordshire – famous at one time for having the largest apple orchard in England with one million Cox’s Orange Pippin trees – grubbed up in 1974 as being uneconomic

Then it was back into the wind for a stretch towards Potton – Mind The Gap being the order of the day due to the strong gusts in between hedgerows – before getting some relief towards Gamlingay, where sensible types cut the corner and got to the coffee stop first. The others had a short monster hill to climb but were rewarded with a long downwind freewheel stretch that seemed to last for about a mile before entering Waresley.

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Springtime in Waresley

The coffee stop was the excellent Waresley Garden Centre, but like all garden centres these days it is quite difficult to find the gardening department………

Maurice already had thoughts of lunch in mind and so the order was given to saddle up and pedal on, passing picturesque Hatley St. George on the way and making generally easier progress. Almost bang on time at 12.30pm and almost exactly on 30 miles (how does he do it?) we rolled into The Pig and Abbott where the fire was roaring and where it was good to be joined by Brian, who had cycled over from Cambridge, Vernon, Simon O, John B and Bernard York, an old friend of Maurice with whom he cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats. It was good to hear from John about the progress of his recent hip operation, but trying to persuade John of the merits of e-bikes proved to be somewhat difficult.

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Maurice and friends Vernon, Mike, nephew David and Bernard on the top table
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Raising a glass to the birthday boy

A toast was also proposed by Rod to our absent friend, Andrew, who no doubt will be soon be giving us tips on how to survive two weeks of self-isolation – shooting pigeons appears to be one of his survival tips.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride, buying the drinks, and organising us all. Also thanks to Ken for taking a photo and Brian for the lunchtime pics. And congratulations to the usual hardy types, Graham and Ric, for riding to and from the meeting point, clocking up many more miles in the process.

Stay well.

Martin

PS. If you haven’t already joined the new Windmill Club WhatsApp group, you’re missing out on easy communications between members and some fine humour. Download the app and ask Andrew to add your mobile phone number.

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5 March 2020: Wet? Not ‘arf!

The morning had started fair, twelve Windmillers exiting the Golden Fleece car park heading for Clavering. But poor old Maurice suffered an early setback when the e-part of his e-bike gave up the ghost and he was forced to return to the pub leaving us at the mercy of Andrew – who assured us he knew the route. We looked at our feet, “Mmmm, we’ll see.”

We needn’t have worried. We suspect he made it up as he went along but Andrew’s route, while distinctly wiggly, took us along quiet lanes in picturesque countryside.

27 miles anticlockwise – and looking a little lost around Clavering
Deborah and Graham circumventing a road closure

Sixteen miles in, we pulled up for refreshments at Poppy’s Barn, our first visit to this little gem of a tea room in the middle of nowhere; the tiny hamlet of Butt’s Green being the nearest habitation. The coffee and cake were exceedingly good and Graham spoke highly of the hot chocolate with marshmallow topping.

Graham’s sugar fix

We may have been cosy in Poppy’s but outside the weather had taken a turn for the worst; steady rain. Exiting the tearoom, we huddled under the barn eaves, donning oilskins and sou’westers while we contemplated our options. Go back inside and eat more cake? Send Sandra on alone to fetch her van? She didn’t like that idea at all. Resolute, we mounted our dripping wet bikes and – heads down – pedalled the 10 miles or so back to the pub.

Landlord Peter gave us a warm welcome and served up an excellent lunch; we particularly enjoyed his pie and a pint fare.

For the record, the 12 hardy Windmillers gently steaming in the Golden Fleece were: Maurice, Deborah, Andrew, Nigel, Ken, Martin, Sandra, Graham, Victor, Rod, Lawrence and Brian.

Despite the weather it was a very enjoyable outing. Many thanks to Andrew for improvising such a good route. Let’s do it again on a fine day.

Brian

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2 March. More puddles. 20 miles.

Outnumbered by the e-bikes of Maurice, Rod and Nick, Andrew and Martin had to pedal extra hard to keep up with them on this ride around wet lanes. But would they get their comeuppance whilst traversing deep puddles and fords, we wondered? Would they short out? But no, e-bikes are clearly designed to withstand anything the English weather can throw at them and so they ploughed through regardless. It was only those wearing non-waterproof shoes who really suffered.

The weather has been particularly unkind to The Windmill Club on recent Mondays and Thursdays – perhaps members have been sinning more than usual? The poor old Essex fields had given up trying to soak up all the rain and so the ditches and streams were full to the brim with water, overflowing onto the roads in many places. But at least it had stopped raining for a while which enabled us to get out on our bikes and enjoy the sunshine.

The first wave of water to ride through was shortly after starting off from The Bull at Langley Lower Green whilst riding up the hill to Upper Green. Maurice, sporting a smart new pair of Schwalbe Marathons which Andrew had acquired for a bargain price, wanted to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering which some of us had visited the previous Thursday and although it was closed it was agreed that we would fit it into a Thursday ride as a coffee stop. Thereafter it was a question of dodging the puddles and fords whenever possible or cruising through them with legs raised in the air.

This is where we went:

Bull circuit 2 March 2020
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Puddles? Wot puddles? None here near Rickling Church.
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Chatting to a local armed with a rake to clear a culvert which would otherwise have flooded his house

The local chap in the above photograph turned out to be a keen cyclist who rode with another club which averaged around 16mph. He said discreetly that The Windmill Club was perhaps not for him!

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Martin in front of an extra large puddle

Nick peeled off towards Meesden whilst the others proceeded to The Bull to chew the cud over some fine beers, but taking care not to share any nuts in case the Corona Man had got there before us.

Thanks to Maurice for leading the way and to Andrew for organising us, and for the photos.

Martin

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27 February. More dining, some riding. John B back.

Another week of cold and windy weather which resulted in Monday’s ride on 24 February not taking place also produced a morning of snow on this late February day.

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Charles’s garden in Chrishall – enough snow to deter anyone from riding a bike….

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……except, of course, Graham who was determined to get to The Red Cow by pedal power

Word was circulated by email and WhatsApp that the ride due to set off from The Red Cow at Chrishall was cancelled but with fine weather forecasted for later in the morning some brave souls besides Graham (Andrew, Ken, Ric, Charles and Martin), also decided to wend their way uphill to work up an appetite for lunch, and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.

The riders were joined by Simon T, Rod, Neil, Simon O, Brummie Brian and John B, who surprised us all with his appearance just 4 weeks after his hip operation. Here we all are enjoying a good lunch:

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John told us that he had been driving a car for the past two weeks and walking the dogs across the fields without a stick, let alone crutches. Probably all against doctor’s orders, but that’s John for you. Well done, John, and we look forward to seeing you on your bike again soon, perhaps an e-bike to start with?

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Graham about to set off after lunch

The sun was shining by now and so after bidding the others farewell, Ric and Charles made their own way home whilst Andrew, Ken, Graham and Martin set off down the hill to the Wendens Ambo – Great Chishill road. Ken peeled off at the junction whilst the others proceeded up to Builden End and continued on the byway towards Langley Lower Green and then to Upper Green in order to check out Poppies Tea Room near Clavering as a future coffee stop. And a fine place it turned out to be. Then it was on to Arkesden and over the hill towards Wendens Ambo where Andrew peeled off leaving Graham and Martin to climb Hill Bastardo with a fresh breeze coming off the open fields which at times assisted and other times hindered our efforts to return to Ickleton via Catmere End, clocking up 20 miles in all.

Thanks to Andrew for organising the lunch and enabling us to make the most of the day.

Martin

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20 February. The Windmill Dining Club. Zero miles. Max calories.

Storms Ciara and Dennis have wreaked their havoc recently, resulting in several ride cancellations. But try as they might, Ciara and Dennis failed to prevent Windmillers from getting together to enjoy a good lunch at the Fleur de Lys in Widdington.

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From the left, Martin, Brian, Geoff, Howard, Vernon, Andrew, Chris, Simon, Maurice and Ken, looking replete after an excellent lunch.

Despite the weather, Geoff e-biked over from Saffron Walden and it was also good to have Simon O join us for a drink. Conversations ranged from cars (nothing new there), summer rides in Scotland, France and Norfolk, the exploits of a group of mad cyclists called The Rough-Stuff Fellowship, and, once again, how best to split timber into logs. Simon O thought that Ken had been in a fight but Ken’s recent skin treatment seemed to be proceeding well.

This is where we should have been cycling:

Fleur 20 Feb
Another time

Martin

 

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13 February. Jemima Puddleduck – where were you? 26 miles.

Sandra would have loved this ride. Not since she led us through puddles galore a couple of years ago have we seen anything remotely comparable until this ride. And it was windy too at times which Sandra would have enjoyed even more!  So it was Mucky Maurice and Donald the Ducky Dawg who were instead jointly responsible for leading just seven Windmillers through deep puddles, streams and fords as we navigated our way through the lanes to Thaxted and back, starting from the Fleur de Lys in Widdington.

This is where we went, the southerly route out and the northerly route back:

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The weather had not been kind since Storm Ciara hit the UK a few days back and with Storm Dennis on the way it was not surprising that we had quite a small turnout for a Thursday. But, luckily, we found a window of relatively quiet weather and no rain which resulted in a very pleasant ride with blue skies at times, even if it meant cruising through the puddles with legs raised in the air to avoid getting a soaking.

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Getting ready for the off. Note Roger’s smart new fireman’s outfit he got for Christmas.

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Hi viz Lawrence extracting a mega thorn from his Schwalbe Marathon before departure

Accompanying Maurice and Andrew were Roger, Lawrence, Graham, Nigel and Martin. Besides the mega thorn which Lawrence had plucked from his front tyre, he also discovered his speed down the steep hill from Widdington towards Elsenham to be faster than intended due to his rear brake not working. A stop in Henham soon established that the problem was due to gunge in the mechanism and a few quick tweaks of the handle soon got it going again.

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Lawrence outside Henham church looking happier now that his rear brake was working again

Despite the detritus on the roads there were no other mishaps or punctures, and so we made steady progress towards Thaxted where excellent coffee and cakes were consumed in Parrishes.

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Outside The Guildhall in Thaxted, built over 600 years ago by the Guild of Cutlers

The return trip was uneventful, and shorter, but involved a pleasant detour up to Little Henham before climbing back up the steep hill to Widdington where it was good to be joined for lunch by Ken, Charles and Brian, Ken having cycled over from Ickleton. Graham also cycled to and from Ickleton and claimed to have already clocked up over 700 miles in 2020 so far!

Back at base

The contest for the muckiest man at the end of the ride was won by Roger followed closely by Andrew.

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The Windmill Knights at their round table in The Fleur de Lys

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Hands up those who thought that Today’s Soup was Buttered Bread!!

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for both planning an identical ride, Andrew for his organisation and the Strava map, and Brian for the lunch time pic.

Martin

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6 February. Brummie Brian’s Wimpole ride. 34 miles.

Brummie Brian always comes up with an interesting ride when called upon which usually results in a good turnout, and today was no exception. In addition there was the added bonus of it being Martin’s belated birthday booze ride, which he seems to have been celebrating for nearly a month since first cracking open a bottle to celebrate his ‘free’ ski pass on 12 January. Not exactly free as it turned out but €52 for a season ain’t bad. Canny Ken, on the other hand, wangled a 2 week pass free of charge and was told he could renew it for further periods also foc …..

Enough of skiing. Assembling at Brian’s local in Stapleford, The Three Horseshoes, (a former drug dealing centre it seems but Brian claims that’s not the reason that he, Tom and Chris have met there regularly over the years………..) the Windmill gang that controls the cycle county lines of North Essex, North Herts and South Cambs also comprised Andrew, Sandra, Rod, Roger, Tom, Simon T, Graham, Ric, Howard, Victor, Yorkie Brian, Neil and Martin, making 14 in all.  Waving them off was Chris, who promised to return back at lunchtime.

This is where Brian’s route took us on this glorious day, albeit a bit chilly to start with at just 1°C:

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Warning us that it was around 22 miles to the coffee stop at Wimpole Hall, Brian led the way via a short stretch of the Sawston By-Pass and then through to Whittlesford via the bike path, crossing the railway line miraculously all together (our recent luck must run out soon). There was very little wind and so we proceeded at a steady pace and gradually felt warm glows appearing on our extremities. No punctures or other unforeseen eventualities either but there seemed to be a race for the coffee queue as we approached Wimpole resulting in a few missing out on the ritual pic in front of the Hall:

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Wimpole Hall in all its glory

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Coffee and cakes on the terrace at Wimpole – too early for wasps, thankfully

In Orwell we stopped to take a call from Ken who was in the vicinity and who sensibly remained on the top of Barrington hill as we crawled up it about 15 minutes later. That made us 15 which meant continuing to cycle in two groups spread apart to allow motorists and other road users to overtake us fairly easily. Indeed, not a horn was noticed all day!

Tom and Victor bid us farewell on returning to The Three Horseshoes and Chris and Geoff joined us, making us 15 once again for an excellent lunch washed down with a fine selection of beers, including JHB which we believe is a favourite of John Bagrie?  John’s hip operation had gone well the previous week and although a quick return trip to the hospital was necessary he was now getting around on his crutches. We all wished him well and hoped we would be seeing him again soon.

Thanks to Brian for a great ride and for arranging such splendid weather. Also to Andrew for all his organisation.

Martin

 

 

 

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3 February. Feeling Bullish again. 18 miles.

It was good to be back at The Bull, Lower Langley, for a Monday ride even though a 3.00pm start meant that it was a bit gloomy towards the end. But opening time is an all important consideration and The Bull does not open until 5.00pm, and so it was lights blazing as Andrew, Rod, Charles, Nick and Martin cruised around the lanes.

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Rod, Nick, Charles and Andrew all wrapped up and ready to go

Nick was the proud owner of a flashy new Cannondale e-bike which looked the part with its drop handlebars and which had a fine turn of speed. Charles, Andrew and Martin had trouble keeping up with him and Rod, and planned to secretly hitch tow ropes on them in future. This is where we went:

Bike ride 3 Feb 2020

Heading firstly towards Little Chishill we took a right towards Builden End up a well surfaced track which Rod and Martin did in the opposite direction a few weeks back – a very useful short cut to / from Chrishall and beyond, and a popular place for Charles to walk his dogs. Thereafter it was up to Chrishall and through Elmdon towards Ickleton,  turning right to Strethall Crossroads, until we spied a familiar figure jogging towards us at a steady pace – Simon Oughton – who was on a circuit from Elmdon via the woods between there and Catmere End. Stopping for a chat resulted in a very generous invitation from Simon for us to call in and have a beer any time we are passing. Thanks, Simon, I’m sure we’ll soon take you up on that!

Passing Simon T’s house in Littlebury Green we were soon descending at speed down to the Wendens Ambo road where we took a left and then a right up the timed course for cyclists towards Arkesden, which we achieved in around 8 minutes compared to the fastest time by a competitor recently of just 2 minutes. It was very noticeable how much water there was in the stream running alongside the road opposite the Axe and Compasses, which is usually dry.

By this time it wasn’t exactly dark but we were grateful to have good lights whilst mums were on their school runs whizzing around the lanes.  Nick’s back light was particularly penetrating despite its size. Perfect timing saw us back at The Bull just as the door was opening, where the usual warm welcome was received and a good natter had with the regulars.

Back at base as the night draws in

Thanks, Andrew, for leading the way.

Martin

 

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January rides

Due to some bloggers being on holiday or otherwise indisposed, it has not been possible to record all of our January rides in the usual visual and descriptive manner. However, Andrew has provided a list of those rides not already kindly blogged by Brian:

Mondays 

13 Jan Anstey  22 miles 

20 Jan Thriplow   20 miles  

27 Jan ride cancelled  

 

Thursdays 

9 Jan Therfield. Victors Birthday ride   31 miles

16 Jan Braughing to Ware 30 miles 

February should see us back to our usual routine. In the meantime, our new book ‘The Windmill Club – our 2019 rides’ makes interesting bedtime reading and much amusement on these cold and dark winter days:

The Windmill Club - our 2019 rides, front cover

Martin

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30 January 2020: Motorbikes, Donkeys and Cake

Nigel’s workshop

Thursday morning saw nine Windmillers – Maurice, Andrew, Nigel, Victor, Rod, Graham, Ken, Howard and Brian – set off from the Fleur de Lys for an excursion to East Hertfordshire where Nigel had invited us to his place for coffee. So it was that after an hour and a half’s peddling we pulled into the delightful village of Bury Green, where he and Sue have lived for some 35 years, restoring the house, raising a family and sharing their lives with various motorbikes, donkeys and horses.

We were admiring Nigel’s workshop – with its in-floor hydraulic lift, vast collection of tools and some very shiny motorbikes – when the aroma of fresh cake drew us towards the kitchen and Sue’s baked treats. After four slices of buttered tea loaf Brian was seen struggling to get back on his bike – and there were reports that Andrew had similarly overindulged on Sue’s excellent shortbread. We can’t wait to tell Keith what he’s missed.

The return leg – via the Pelhams and Rickling Green – passed uneventfully and we made good time back to the Fleur for lunch and a few beers at our usual table by the fire.

A very big thanks to Sue and Nigel for their hospitality. Also Maurice and Andrew for planning everything.

30 miles anticlockwise from Widdington

Brian

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24 January 2020: Mudguards at Balsham

A distinctly damp morning saw ten Windmillers gathering at the Black Bull in Balsham for our regular Thursday outing.

Maurice led the way out of the pub car park followed by Geoff, Graham, Deborah, Ken, Howard, Andrew, Victor, Rod and Brian. For once, everyone had mudguards, even Deborah; she no longer needs to be hosed down on arriving home on Thursdays.

Have mudguards – keep clean

We followed Maurice through Withersfield, Great Wratting, Kedington and Baythorne End before pulling in at the Fox and Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead. Maurice having phoned ahead, the landlady opened up early for us and we sipped coffee in front of a roaring fire.

Back on the bikes, we headed for Helions Bumpstead and Bartlow, pausing for a photo at Olmstead Green to mark the spot where Roger came a cropper on his first outing with the club.

Olmstead Green, now known as Roger’s Tumble

Arriving back at the Black Bull, Brian – this week’s birthday boy – bought the beers and we laughed at some early photos of a well known Windmiller. Would you recognise this dapper chap?

Would you buy a pair of used Schwalbe Marathons from him?
30 miles clockwise from Balsham

Thanks, Maurice for another wonderful outing – and Andrew for organising things.

Brian

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6 January 2020: Sandra’s Mercy Dash

Ambulancewoman Sandra

A chilly Monday lunchtime saw a posse of six riders set off from the Blind Fiddler for a 20 mile circuit around the Pelhams – or that was the plan. Andrew led the way followed by Neil, Rod, Charles, Sandra and Brian. We had only gone 6 miles, however, when Rod came a cropper on a slippery bend in Furneux Pelham, taking a heavy tumble and hitting the tarmac head first. We all agreed it best to curtail the outing and get Rod home to recuperate.

Sandra was the hero of the hour, cycling back to Anstey, collecting her van and returning to the scene of the accident to scoop up Rod – plus his now somewhat bent bike – and ship both to Royston.

We have since heard from Rod and are happy to report he is ok, apart from a cracked helmet and some painful bruising.

A big thanks to Sandra, our rock solid, ever selfless, true friend. (We haven’t yet told her she missed out on an impromptu beef feast served up free of charge by Landlord Barry at the Blind Fiddler.) We owe her a lunch!

14 miles clockwise from Anstey – with a stop for first-aid in Furneux Pelham

Brian

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2 January 2019 – The New Year begins at Widdington

The first Thursday of 2020 saw us speculating on the year ahead while gathering in the Fleur car park. Would Deborah finally buy some mudguards? Would Andrew continue banging on about Schwalbe Marathons? And who would be next in line for a new hip or knee? The year turns; life’s mysteries abound.

Meanwhile, we were off to explore the lanes of north Essex, Andrew leading the way, closely followed by Deborah, Sandra, Lawrence, Charles, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Simon and Brian.

Waiting patiently for Andrew – shoelaces can be such a challenge.

We headed for Thaxted via Radwinter and Great Sampford. Alas, along the way Brian pulled up with punctures in both wheels. Strewth, what a start to the year! Reassuring the peloton they would catch up, Brian and Rod waved the others on and set about repairs. Things were soon fixed and we all caught up again over coffee and cake at Parrishes in Thaxted.

It was wet in parts

The return leg – via Cutlers Green and Debden Green – passed uneventfully and we tumbled back into the warm embrace of the Fleur where Landlord Chris served up another superb two course lunch

Thanks, Andrew for leading the way.

30 miles clockwise from Widdington

Brian

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23 December. A very Merry Christmas ride.19 miles.

The thought of tucking into some delicious tapas has produced a number of rides from the Green Man in Thriplow, particularly on recent Mondays when the daylight diminishes rapidly after 3.00pm. So, once again, five Windmillers comprising Andrew, Ken, Simon, Graham and Martin gathered at noon at the Green Man for a ride around the lanes, with the Ickletonians having cycled there.

It was another glorious pre-Christmas day as the group set off on a ride devised by Martin to work up an appetite for Christmas turkey and all the trimmings.

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Andrew, Graham, Ken and Simon ready for the off

The first stop was Lawrence’s house in Fowlmere as he had threatened to join us but shopping had got the better of him. So on we went via Chrishall Grange and up a short but infamous hill Bastardo which looks like a gentle incline from a distance but gets steadily steeper towards the top. Andrew had chosen to bring a mountain bike, thinking that Martin had included a muddy off road stretch, and the heavy old thing proved to be not so good at climbing hills (i.e. the bike, not Andrew!).

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Andrew slaloming up hill Bastardo

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Phew! Got there.

That was the hard part over. Thereafter it was on to Strethall Crossroads, left to Ickleton, across Ickleton recreation ground and on towards Hinxton Ford which was closed to traffic due to the high water level.

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HInxton Ford

Then it was through Duxford, Whittlesford and back to Thriplow via Newton instead of using the muddy track between Whittlesford and Thriplow where Andrew would have been in his element.

An excellent tapas lunch followed after which we bid each other a Merry Christmas and set off to wrap up the presents.

This is where we went:

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A very Merry Christmas to one and all and a happy and healthy 2020.

Martin⛷

 

 

 

 

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30 December 2019: 21 miles under blue skies

A beautiful Monday morning saw a dozen Windmillers gathering at The Green Man, Thriplow for the final ride of the year. Our gang comprised Andrew, Lindsey, Maurice, Graham, Ken, Rod, Lawrence, Sandra, Simon, Charles and two Brians.

Brummie Brian led the way out through Fowlmere, Chrishall Grange, Duxford, Whittlesford, Harston and on to Haslingfield, where some muttering was heard from the back of the peloton as we headed, once again, for Chapel Hill. Cresting the hill – not the longest but certainly one of the steepest around these parts – we admired the view as we freewheeled down the other side into Barrington. From there on it was easy going, returning to Thriplow via Shepreth, where the slowcoaches at the back got held up at the level crossing.

Reunited again at The Green Man, we were delighted to see Vernon joining us for lunch.

21 miles anticlockwise from Thriplow

Here’s looking forward to many more rides together in 2020.

And a very Happy New Year to all our readers.

Brian

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19 December 2019 – Flat Tyres and Rusty Chains

Deborah and her pit crew

Thursday morning and we were about to set off from the Fleur, when Andrew’s phone rang. “Be there in a mo,” said Deborah, apologising profusely. Sure enough within five minutes she was pulling her bike from the car and raring to go. We couldn’t help but notice, however, her remarkably rusty chain, not to mention two almost-flat tyres.

The Windmillers enjoy a scrapheap challenge and so, in a trice, Brian had produced a stirrup pump and Simon, resourceful chap, had disappeared into the pub kitchen in search of oil. Deborah looked on bemused as Andrew pumped her tyres and Simon – courtesy of Chef – applied liberal doses of extra virgin olive oil to all moving parts.

Oily Simon and Windy Andrew

With the bicycle maintenance done, we were off – Andrew leading the way, followed by Deborah, Martin, Simon, Victor, Howard, Graham and Brian – the tail-enders taking care to avoid the growing trail of olive oil.

But we had only gone a mile when Simon picked up a puncture on the muddy road near the quarry. This was soon fixed – though given the filthy condition of the roads hereabouts – poor old Simon was now coated in a mucky emulsion of mud and olive oil.

Parrishes Tea Room in Thaxted

Thankfully, it was plain sailing from there on and, within the hour we were pulling in for coffee and cake at Thaxted.

Refreshed and back on the bikes, Andrew took us down a little known byway, cunningly signed “Strictly Private” by the farmer – though a quick check on the OS map showed it was indeed a public thoroughfare. Somewhat muddy (let’s try it again in the summer), this picturesque lane took us through the tiny hamlet of Tindon End and emerged just outside Great Sampford.

Pausing for pictures in Hempstead, we were saddened to see the Bluebell pub – birthplace of Dick Turpin – had closed.

Notorious highwayman, Graham Dolman

Arriving back at the Fleur, we were delighted to be joined by Maurice, Nigel and Ken – and Deborah kindly bought us all a beer.

Thanks for the beers, Deborah!

Thanks go to Andrew for planning it all.

And a Merry Christmas to all our readers!

29 miles anticlockwise from Widdington

Brian

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16 December. Maurice back on his bike. 19 miles.

Was this a record we all wondered, just 8 weeks from having a new knee installed? And it wasn’t just a ride around the block but a full 19 miles that Maurice achieved on his e-bike around the lanes on this pleasant winter’s afternoon. Starting earlier than usual for a Monday ride at midday, from The Green Man in Thriplow, enabled the group of 8 Windmillers to not only make the most of the daylight but to indulge in tasty tapas and some fine beer on their return.

Joining Maurice were Andrew, Lawrence, Rod, Graham, Ric, John and Martin on a route which was to go northwards via Comberton and back via Harlton, Haslingfield, Barrington and Foxton. The map below is not quite where we went, having cut out the planned off road stretch between Harlton and Barrington and cycling up Chapel Hill from Haslingfield instead, which was somewhat drier and a bit shorter:

Thriplow Comberton circuit

There was only one slight problem as we gathered at The Green Man – Rod had forgotten to bring the battery for his heavy e-bike but, undeterred and in true Windmiller gutsy style there was no dropping out. Rod decided to go for it and made it back just before his own battery went flat. Well done Rod, and Maurice too who had his battery control set on max but still tended to pedal with his left leg only…………

Luckily it was flat most of the way with little wind and the lanes were pleasantly quiet, except between Barton and Comberton but a cycle path for the school kids came in useful on that stretch.

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Stopping for a breather by Harlton village pond – no shortage of water now for the ducks

Chapel Hill in Haslingfield was the real tester but both Rod and Maurice sailed up it with ease after which it was a nice freewheel downhill to Barrington and then left to Foxton, where a convenient cycle crossing over the railway line cuts out the notorious barriers which have been known to stay down for 15 minutes at a time on occasions.

After Foxton there was a bit of a headwind which was tough for Rod but we were soon whizzing back to Thriplow from Fowlmere, ready to tuck into some tapas. However, being a popular pre-Christmas pub, we had to prop up the bar for a while until a table was made ready after which we could settle down, practice our Scrabble skills and enjoy some delicious tapas.

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What literary geniuses we are!

 

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Feeling replete 

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Andrew doing a Highland Fling in his mini kilt. Och aye – it’s gruesome!

It was good to find a friend of Martin and also Glen Ryan, Karen Broomhead, eating in the pub with her family:

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Karen Broomhead

There was also a despondent group of local LibDems drowning their sorrows, but they got close!

All agreed that another trip was necessary in the near future to try out some more tapas.

Well done, once again, to Maurice for achieving such progress so soon after his knee operation, and to Rod who will probably not forget his battery ever again!

Martin

 

 

 

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12th December. Christmas Lunch (and Election Day).

Little did we know when fixing the date for the Christmas Lunch that it would coincide with Election Day but, thankfully, politics was not on the menu when 37 Windmillers and  guests sat down to an excellent lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. Here is the delicious menu, all cooked to perfection by landlord Peter’s wife Jess (Peter also being an occasional Windmiller):

Golden Fleece menu

Gathering at noon for a 1.00pm start enabled plenty of time to chat beforehand, and also for Graham to dry out, having cycled from Ickleton in appalling weather – wet, cold and a strong headwind. If anyone was in need of a beer, he was.

Here we all are, thanks to Brian’s photos, getting in the mood for Christmas and celebrating a great year of cycling:

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From the left Ken, Ann, Lindsey, Rod, Nick, Kath K, Kath Mc, Andrew, Lynn, Maurice, Frances

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Ollie, Simon O, Bridget, Lyn, Lawrence, Graham, John, Glen, Lisa, Howard

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Pam, Chris, Tom, Jo, Jackie, Deborah, Neil

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Moira, Karen, Simon T,  Fiona, Charles, Penny, Martin, Vernon

And after a glass of wine or three:

After lunch, Andrew sprang to his feet dressed smartly in his tartan trews, and welcomed members (who he described as a bunch of bastards – more later) and their guests to the lunch, the fifth he has organised since 2015 and which has nearly doubled in size from 20 to 37 guests. He thanked Peter and Jess, our hosts, and then welcomed Glen Ryan and Bridget Tarrington saying how much we all miss Kell and John, who sadly died in January. He also welcomed our new members and newcomers to the lunch – Charles and Fiona, Nick and Kath, Neil, Deborah, Howard and Lisa, and Frances.

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Andrew and his tartan trews

 

Thanks were also given by Andrew to Maurice our leader for his help, guidance, route planning and managing our charity funds, whilst also wishing a continued speedy recovery from his recent knee operation. He thanked those who had donated bikes that were sold to raise the additional princely sum of £377 for charity  – Vernon, Bridget and Simon O.

Due to Maurice being out of action towards the latter part of the year and Andrew cruising around on holiday, he also thanked those who had volunteered to organise rides – Simon T, Brian, Graham, Geoff, Victor, Sandra, Ken and Martin. These had provided a variety of interesting new routes which we look forward to repeating in the future.

As well as cycling around the Windmill Club territory and other parts of the UK, Andrew mentioned his ride across Brittany and Normandy in June with Lawrence, accompanied by Ken and Ann for part of the way plus Martin and Penny tagging along by car. A good time was had by all, except for Andrew’s four punctures on the same day.

Martin then staggered to his feet, stripping off his jacket as he did so but left it at that. Having analysed the year’s blog (www.thewindmillclubdotnet.wordpress.com) he provided a review of 2019 as follows:

No. of blog visitors: 562 to date (472 in whole of 2018) from 19 countries.

No. of views: 1,333 to date (1,397 in whole of 2018). Total views since inception, 6,899.

No. of rides: 66 to date – possibly more due to some Monday rides not being blogged but several cancellations due to weather (77 same time 2018).

Total distance recorded to date: 1,792 miles (1,994  in 2018). Longest ride: 51 miles to Ely on 4/4/. Shortest ride: 14 miles on 1/7 (referred to also later).

Largest total mileage by members to date (those with Strava records): 1. Graham – 6,426. 2. Sandra – 4,337. 3. Brian – 2,800. 4. Andrew – 2,578.  Ric had probably clocked up an appreciable distance too.

Martin then said what a great year it had been for rides and thanked Maurice for his impeccable planning and also those who Andrew had mentioned earlier, as well as Andrew himself who not only organised many rides, Mondays in particular, but also carried out the bulk of the admin in running the club. Martin also thanked Brian in particular for his help on the blog and his wonderful photographs, and also Sandra who happily contributes whenever needed.

Andrew’s reference earlier to being a bunch of bastards picked up on a description of The Windmill Club given by new member Charles Joint on his first outing earlier in the year, and which has since become part of our folklore.  Martin had to agree totally with Charles when, after returning from a bout of illness on 1/7 and starting the ride after Maurice, Andrew and Keith had set off, he discovered they were holed up in Elmdon having a beer with Simon and Ollie. They invited him to join them but he was near Duddenhoe End by that time, calling them all in similar terms over the phone to those used by Charles, and so all met up eventually at The Bull in Lower Langley.

No. of pubs visited. 28 (22 in 2018). Most frequented were The Bull and The Tally Ho ( 9 apiece) but most popular for lunch were The Fleur de Lys in Widdington and The Golden Fleece (5 apiece).

Largest no. of riders: 16 on 31/10. The smallest was 2 on 18/11.

Birthdays celebrated: Martin, Brian, Maurice, Roger, Andrew, Graham, Rod, Ken, Geoff, Sandra, Deborah, Nigel, Keith, Vernon, Lawrence.

Accidents, illnesses and ailments: Luckily, no major accidents this year, just a few illnesses and ailments with complete recovery by all concerned. After last year’s hip replacement Maurice showed once again his ability to recover quickly from major surgery by meeting for lunch on 31/10 in Boxworth after a ride that Ken organised, just 2 weeks after his operation. An operation of particular note was Andrew’s DIY replacement of a tooth with Super Glue.

Involuntary Dismount Prize 2019.: There were several candidates including Chris, Victor, Brian, Charles, Graham (not on a Windmill ride) and Nick (likewise). Victor had 2 dismounts but sprang up quickly from both but Brian had a spectacular low speed splat in Ware, which won him the prize.

Best suntan: Roger, who was busy topping it up again skiing in Tignes, and Maurice jointly. Maurice always has a ruddy glow about him.

Top speed prize 2019: Andrew, for clocking up 34mph descending from Littlebury Green whilst dodging the badgers.

Storyteller prize 2019: For good stories ranging from how to grab a bargain in charity shops to getting rid of stoats in an attic to learning about the discovery of DNA and readings of Rupert Brooke’s poetry, this prize went to Simon T.

Puncture prize 2019: Candidates included Brian, Roger, Keith (2 apiece) and Graham (3) but for making members wait in the polluted entrance of the Blackwall Tunnel whilst he attempted to replace a punctured tube with some dreadful patched up tubes, Martin’s solitary puncture gained him the prize.

Dodgy bike prize 2019: Once again, several candidates including Maurice (jammed chain), Andrew (broken gear support, again) and Victor (front brake jammed on). But for pedalling effectively uphill across the Fens for 40 miles and getting thoroughly exhausted in the process, the prize went to Victor.

Ferry bad prize 2019: For leading a ride all the way from Newbourne to the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry on 28/3 and finding that the ferry did not start operating for another 10 days, necessitating a U-turn, this prize was awarded to Maurice.

Going AWOL prize 2019: For steaming down a cycleway alongside the A12 on 8/8 whilst everyone else was turning left to Dunwich, this prize went to Deborah. Graham was given a special mention for chasing after her and returning her to the flock.

Doubting Thomas prize 2019: For not believing Martin on 6/9 when he said a ferry would arrive on a desolate shingle beach to take everyone back to Brightlingsea, only to discover that a snazzy rubber dinghy with a drop down loading ramp skippered by the harbourmaster did indeed arrive more or less on time, this prize was awarded jointly to Maurice, Andrew, Keith, Brian, Roger, Ric, Deborah, Charles and Graham. Lawrence had been included in the list but he claimed he always had utter faith and so his name was removed.

Hi-tech prize 2019: Excluding Strava users, there were 3 candidates – Geoff, Rod and Charles. Geoff has a fancy OS app on his phone, complete with extra power pack, which gives turn by turn instructions. Rod has a powerful e-bike which can send him a message if it gets nicked but the winner was Charles with his smart helmet which has Bluetooth, a microphone and a speaker which plays a regimental march at 6.30pm when it’s time to lock his chickens up, not to mention a flashing rear light. On top of this he has a smart watch with which he can pay bills in a pub. Say no more!

Mud prize 2019: By rights this prize should have gone to Andrew for leading a ride down a very rutted and muddy track between Widdington and Little Henham on 11/7 but for guaranteeing  ‘a mud free ride or your money back’ on 28/11 the prize was awarded by a thin margin to Brian. For proof, see the photo of Deborah’s posterior.

At this point, just when heckling was about to take place due the time Martin had taken over his review, he handed the floor back to Andrew and Maurice for the most important part of the lunch – the awarding of the Windmill Club’s special awards for 2019 and the announcement of how much we had raised for charity and the recipients of the funds.

The first special award, the Golden Pedal, is awarded for regular attendance and general contribution to the Club’s activities. This year it was given to Graham for not only his contribution, including organising a ride on 5/12, but for clocking up an astonishing 6,426 miles as at 8/12 which is likely to be nearer to 7,000 by the end of the year if he keeps up the same average. That’s more than many people drive in a year. He has also climbed over 200 miles during this time! Well done, Graham!

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Graham receiving his Golden Pedal award

The second award, the Senior Veteran Clubman of the Year, was presented to Vernon who, despite being in his 80th year, is a very regular attendee and continued cycling despite health issues. He is wonderful company socially and always popular on his birthday when he buys all the drinks! His first ride with the Windmill Club was in Feb 2013.

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Vernon receiving his Senior Veteran Clubman of the Year award from Maurice

Maurice then announced that thanks to the Club having had another good year, £2,000 had been raised for charity, which was greeted with much applause. The recipients this year will be The EVE Appeal, the breast cancer charity (£250), The Cystic Fibrosis Trust (£250), Headway – the brain injury association (£1,000) and Macmillan Nurses (£500).

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Maurice announcing the 2019 distribution to charity

Finally, Maurice presented The Windmill Clubman of the Year Award to the person who works tirelessly for the club, handling the majority of the admin, organising rides, organising the Christmas lunch (with the help of his wife) and generally being the Super Glue of the club. And that person was Andrew – well applauded and well deserved!

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Andrew receiving his Windmill Clubman of the Year Award from Maurice

And so another Christmas lunch drew to a close. We look forward to another good year in 2020 and wish all members and their families a very Happy Christmas.

Martin