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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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!).
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.
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:
A very Merry Christmas to one and all and a happy and healthy 2020.
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.
Here’s looking forward to many more rides together in 2020.
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.
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.
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.
Arriving back at the Fleur, we were delighted to be joined by Maurice, Nigel and Ken – and Deborah kindly bought us all a beer.
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:
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.
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.
It was good to find a friend of Martin and also Glen Ryan, Karen Broomhead, eating in the pub with her family:
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!
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):
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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!
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.
Andrew was busy beating (birds, not carpets) and so Martin offered to organise a shortish ride from The Green Man in Thriplow, on what seemed early in the day to be a ride that might be cancelled due to high winds. But with a forecast of sun and less wind as the day went on it seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, and so it proved to be.
Simon and Charles were the other takers for the 13.30 start. Meeting in the bar beforehand we bumped into Lawrence who was not dressed in his snazzy new cycle outfit, modelled recently on Garret Hostel Lane bridge in Cambridge, but in serious lunching gear having met a couple of chums there. And what a good place it is to eat too. The roaring fire and good ales makes it a fine pub to visit on a winter’s day.
Charles was suffering from a bad back having slipped down some stairs just a day or so earlier at a swimming pool in Abu Dhabi and so was high on pain killers. Well done, Charles, for giving it a go and after a long flight too. That’s Windmill stamina for you.
This is where we went, anticlockwise:
The stretch from Fowlmere to Flint Cross on the A505 was blissfully quiet due to the road being dug up in the centre of Fowlmere. (There are so many similar roads that one wonders if Jeremy Corbyn’s free broadband for all has already started?)
It was still distinctly windy but the long climb from Flint Cross to Great Chishill was an absolute breeze (ugh!) with the wind dead behind. All it needed was a small sail and no pedalling would have been required. Half way up we had to stop, not from exertion but to take in what must be one of the finest views in South Cambridgeshire, looking towards a copse near Heydon:
Once at the top of the Great Chishill mountain it was more or less downhill all the way from Heydon to Chrishall Grange which was just as well as the wind was on our noses. Then it was down Grange Road to Duxford with the wind behind before re-crossing the A505 at Whittlesford and taking an off road track back to Thriplow which, thankfully, was not too muddy.
Thanks to Charles and Simon for joining me on the ride. Hopefully, Charles will be less black and blue by the time of the Christmas lunch.
The Flitch Way used to be a single track railway line between Bishops Stortford and Braintree but, thanks to Dr. Beeching who redrew the railway map of Great Britain in the 1950s, it is now a delightful cycle / pedestrian route instead which our leader for the day Graham incorporated into this ride, commencing in Old Harlow where Graham used to work.
Unfortunately for Graham, who decided to cycle from Ickleton to Old Harlow down his former cycle commuting route, he picked up a couple of punctures probably from the hawthorn needles which cover the lanes at this time of year. It was a bitterly cold and foggy morning and having struggled to replace the first tube his hands were somewhat numb by the time the second happened and so with time pressing he put out a MAYDAY call which Brian picked up and diverted towards Stocking Pelham where Graham was stranded. Meanwhile, several of the others on the ride had gathered at The Queen’s Head or nearby due to the road outside being dug up, and headed to a cosy caff in the back room of the local shop to keep warm with mugs of coffee.
Eventually, Brian and Graham arrived but there was still the second puncture to mend.
And so, 45 mins later than planned Graham led Andrew, Brian, Ken, Rod, Roger, Geoff, Howard and Martin eastwards and downwind along very quiet lanes, several of them National Cycle Routes, towards our coffee stop at the Meadow Hill café in Dunmow, where the fruit cake, buns and scones were declared to be excellent.
Fruit cakes in Dunmow
Fruit cakes in Dunmow
After coffee it was time to head back west and having crossed the busy A120 via a bridge we were soon cycling along the very straight Flitch Way with just the odd barrier to squeeze through here and there, and little or no mud – definitely a ride which Graham could have declared ‘guaranteed mud free or your money back’ but after last week’s experience decided it might be wiser not to. Eventually we came to a halt, appropriately enough, at Stane Street Halt, where trains had to be flagged down if a passenger wanted to get on. And for those wishing to get off, passengers had to ask the guard who then had to ask the driver if he would be ever so kind as to halt at Stane Street. Guards had a useful job to do in those days!
We exited the Flitch Way at this point and then made our way around Hatfield Forest to Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath, all looking glorious in the winter sunshine.
The wind appeared to increase a bit on the final leg and so we were ready to sample some fine ales and enjoy a hearty lunch when we arrived back at The Queen’s Head.
This is where we went, the Flitch Way being the easy bit to spot:
Thanks, Graham, for arranging a fantastic ride and for introducing us to your old stamping ground in Old Harlow. We’re glad you accepted a lift back to Ickleton with Ken. Two punctures is quite enough in one day.
Thanks also to Andrew for organising us all and we hope his back is no longer broke.
“Guaranteed mud-free or your money back” was Brummie Brian’s sales pitch for Thursday’s ride; a rash promise considering it had been raining steadily for two days.
Ten Windmillers – a goodly turnout considering the weather – met up at Cara Coffee in Great Shelford. Joining Brian were Deborah, Roger, Charles, Rod, Howard, Victor, Tom, Yorkshire Brian – and Lawrence, this week’s Birthday Boy, resplendent in a new all-weather top; a present from a doting daughter.
Setting out from Shelford we headed for Hauxton, crossed Trumpington Meadows to Grantchester and on to Coton, where we took the cycleway into Cambridge. Pausing for photographs on Garret Hostel Bridge, Charles yelled encouragement to the tourist punts passing on the river below. Poor souls, they looked chilled to the bone. Why go punting in winter, anyway? Beats me.
Weaving through the town centre, we followed Brian to Jesus Green and thence along the River Cam towpath through Chesterton to Milton, where we pulled in for coffee at Grounds Café.
It was in Milton Country Park that the first mud-related mutterings were heard from the peloton. “It’s not mud, it’s moisture,” yelled Brian over his shoulder. But we were soon back on the road and, mutiny averted, we headed for Landbeach and then on to Waterbeach – where we rejoined the riverside for the return leg to Cambridge.
Some were heard to liken the towpath to a mud bath. “The drainage is a little patchy,” conceded Brian, staying well ahead of the pack and not daring to look back.
Nearing Chesterton, Victor took a tumble, a victim of the wooden rails along the towpath that have claimed Martin and Vernon on previous outings. Glad to say, the involuntary dismount was momentary, indeed, executed in some style and – in a trice – Victor was back in the saddle, unscathed, nay unmudded.
Crossing town again, we joined the cycleway running along the guided bus track, the home straight back to Great Shelford, where we were delighted to find Ken, Martin and Maurice waiting for us at The Square and Compasses. We enjoyed a good lunch and Lawrence, top chap, bought the beers. Happy Birthday, Lawrence!
Starting from The White Horse Inn in Ridgewell on the A1017, between Haverhill and Castle Hedingham, this was a canny figure of eight ride devised by Geoff which took in some delightful new lanes whilst also incorporating some familiar ones. Assembling at 9.00am to have coffee and place lunch orders, eleven Windmillers set off soon afterwards led by Geoff and followed by Andrew, Rod, Ken, Roger, Lawrence, Deborah, Graham, Tom, Howard and Martin. Unfortunately, Charles had suffered a puncture on his car en route but he caught up with us later.
This is where we went, in a clockwise direction:
Before setting off, there was some concern about the health of both Andrew and Roger as both appeared to be trying to access the defibrillator on the pub’s outside wall:
The roads were wet and muddy in places, but not too bad, and the day was reasonably warm compared to recent weeks which made for a very pleasant ride through typically quiet Essex lanes. There was only one point where a decision had to be made as to whether to use a bridge over a ford or go for it, the majority deciding to take the safe route whilst others took the plunge.
Lawrence and Graham decide to take the plunge.
After 16 miles – perfect timing – we pulled into the Blue Egg café outside Great Bardfield, which must surely represent the best run caff in East Anglia. They not only serve wonderful coffee and cakes, at good prices, but also cope with sudden onslaughts of customers with great ease and efficiency. (This Editor is not on commission.)
Putting on weight with Blue Egg delicacies.
Ready for the off once again, with Charles now on board too.
Heading through Great Bardfield we had to stop, of course, for a photo call outside Gibraltar Windmill which has been converted into a residence:
Skirting Finchingfield and its fine windmill we continued northwards to Howe Street and then back to Ridgewell via Stambourne Green and Birdbrook to a warm welcome and excellent fare at The White Horse, where it was great to be joined by Ric who had cycled over from Harston and Brian who had come by car, making it 14 for lunch.
Thanks were given over lunch to Geoff who organised a superb ride and led us around the lanes using the latest handlebar mounted technology.
Needless to say, Graham had cycled to Ridgewell from Ickleton and refused the offer of a lift back, clocking up around 70 miles for the day and adding to his total of several thousand miles this year. Well done, Graham!
There were just two Windmillers, Rod and Martin, who embarked on this cold but glorious Autumn ride from The Blind Fiddler in Anstey at 2.00pm, to ensure we got back in time before darkness set in. But once we got going we soon warmed up, not only through the effort of pedalling but also when we stopped at Maurice’s house for a cuppa. Thanks Maurice and Linda!
The aim was to explore a hamlet near Chrishall, known as both Building End and Builden End, but with the sun low in the sky and Great Chishill windmill looking spectacular we had to pay our respects, which Rod very kindly offered to do. This must be a first to have a solitary Windmiller posing in front of a windmill.
Having stripped off a layer due to the climb up to Barley and Great Chishill, we were soon descending to the turning to Building / Builden End, where we reckoned the dead end lane with some lovely old houses and cottages would become a smooth byway. Charles J had already indicated that this would be the case but it was a joy to behold – a smooth wide track that climbed gently and emerged on the road towards Lower Langley. A useful discovery.
Then it was past the closed Bull and on towards Brent Pelham before returning to Anstey and receiving another warm welcome from the landlord and customers of The Blind Fiddler.
This is where we went:
Thanks, Rod, for accompanying me! We had a good ride.
Rarely does poor weather force cancellation of a Thursday outing. But sometimes it does, triggering our well rehearsed contingency plan. We call it “Let’s have a bloody good lunch.”
So it was that Martin put away his Blackwater Estuary map for another day and we opted instead for a short trip to our favourite local, The Fleur de Lys.
Alas, Landlords Chris and Ellie had been forced to close for the day as the water main supplying Widdington had failed. Even the road into the village was closed while contractors dug it up to repair the pipe.
But all was not lost; a quick call to Chris and he offered to open up specially for us. We even managed to sweet talk our way past the contractors and the Road Closed signs.
Ric, Geoff, Andrew and Graham, determined to clock up at least a few miles in the saddle, cycled to Widdington while the rest of us – Lawrence, SimonT, SimonO, Maurice, Ken, Howard, Martin and Brian – took the easy option and drove there.
Chris and Ellie did us proud by improvising an excellent lunch of chips and sandwiches. God knows how they did the washing up, maybe they used beer. Many, many thanks to them both.
Occasionally Windmillers come across closed roads that can easily be got around, usually on a path for pedestrians. This time it was different. There was no path but just heaps of spoil from a large trench being dug in the road between Langley Lower Green to Roast Green. After much squelching in sticky mud and traversing ditches the refuse-to-be-beaten Windmillers got through.
Earlier, the gang of five including Andrew, Rod, Simon, Nick and Martin had departed on a circuit from the Blind Fiddler in Anstey for a change, on a route devised by Martin. The Blind Fiddler’s opening hours were conducive to an afternoon ride in mid-November, being open all afternoon. This is where we went:
Unfortunately, Nick had fallen off his bike the day before and was still suffering a bit and so he peeled off in Nuthampsted at The Woodman. The remainder continued past Bridget Tarrington’s house, who we look forward to seeing at the Christmas lunch, and then to the spoil heap via Shaftenhoe End, Little Chishill and Langley Lower Green, passing en route the byway from Building End near Chrishall which we aim to try out one day.
Having hauled Rod’s heavy e-bike through the mud and scraped the mud off it, and our shoes, on we went through the now fading light but enjoying the sunset and reasonable road conditions despite the amount of rain that had fallen recently. A nice surprise was the lack of a ford on Violets Lane near Washall Green, enabling us to climb the concrete track to Furneux Pelham. From there it was a steady ride back to a warm welcome at The Blind Fiddler, and sustenance in front of a roaring fire.
A good turnout of 11 Windmillers gathered at The Fox and Duck in Therfield on this cold and windy Autumn day to take part in a ride organised by Victor, and to celebrate Vernon’s birthday at the same time. Some were expecting milder weather and luckily team leader Victor came with spare jackets and gloves which he doled out to Simon and Deborah to prevent them getting frostbite.
It wasn’t long, however, before Graham felt the cold too thanks to a puncture during the first half mile heading down to the A505, resulting in a painful tyre changing session, helped by Vernon.
Some had gone on ahead, to Macdonalds we thought, some were sheltering from the wind behind a hedge but it wasn’t long before all met up having had to endure a short stretch of the A505 before turning right towards Litlington. Turning left towards Steeple Morden was when the full force of the wind was felt and so a stop at the memorial to the 355th Fighter Group of the American airforce to pay our respects to those who died came as a pleasant rest.
The lanes were open and quiet as we worked our way steadily towards Ashwell, at one stage wondering just which way to go:
At Ashwell’s Rhubarb and Mustard coffee shop, some hardy types sat outside whilst others warmed up inside, which had the advantage of access to the beauty parlour. Roger was stopped just in time from heading up the stairs.
Then it was head down once again as we battled our way to Baldock, thinking of how wonderful the return leg would be, and so it proved to be. Heading up the hill out of Baldock towards Wallington was a dream with the wind behind and we were soon stopping outside George Orwell’s cottage honking away like the characters from Animal farm.
Old Major (Vernon?)– An aged prize Middle White boar provides the inspiration that fuels the rebellion. He is an allegorical combination of Karl Marx, one of the creators of communism, and Vladimir Lenin, the communist leader of the Russian Revolution (claimed by Martin as he rides a Revolution bike) and the early Soviet nation, in that he draws up the principles of the revolution. His skull being put on revered public display recalls Lenin.
Napoleon – “A large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way”. An allegory of Joseph Stalin, Napoleon is the main villain of Animal Farm.
Snowball – Napoleon’s rival and original head of the farm after Jones’ overthrow. His life parallels that of Leon Trotsky, but may also combine elements from Lenin.[c]
Squealer – A small, white, fat porker who serves as Napoleon’s second-in-command and minister of propaganda, holding a position similar to that of Vyacheslav Molotov.
Minimus (definitely Lawrence) – A poetic pig who writes the second and third national anthems of Animal Farm after the singing of “Beasts of England” is banned. Rodden compares him to the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
The piglets – Hinted to be the children of Napoleon and are the first generation of animals subjugated to his idea of animal inequality.
Pinkeye – A minor pig who is mentioned only once; he is the pig that tastes Napoleon’s food to make sure it is not poisoned, in response to rumours about an assassination attempt on Napoleon
With thanks to Wikipedia.
Continuing on through Sandon and Kelshall it wasn’t long before all were back at The Fox and Duck and considerably warmer than when setting off, having enjoyed an excellent ride.
Vernon and Roger happy to be back in Therfield
It was great to be joined by no-sticks Maurice, looking very fit and dapper, and Ken. After a hearty rendering of Happy Birthday to Vernon we sat down to an excellent lunch, washed down with some fine ales and drinks all of which were paid for by Vernon. Cheers Vernon!
Thanks go to Victor for planning a great ride and of course to our hardworking dawg Andrew for organising us all. We look forward to seeing Maurice on his bike agian in the not too distant future.
It was indeed a surprise to come across a low flying Apache helicopter circling around the same area between Elmdon and Strethall, sometimes just a few metres from the ground. We stopped to take a look and, spotting our hi-viz jackets, the pilot obligingly hovered close by and gave us a wave. It appeared to be a low level training routine rather than a police-style drug bust.
Our gang of four Windmillers led by Andrew and followed by Simon, Charles and Martin had set off at 3.00pm on this colourful Autumn afternoon from The Bull at Lower Langley on a circuit via Little Chishill, Great Chishill, Elmdon, Catmere End, Littlebury Green, Duddenhoe End and back to The Bull.
Getting ready for the off, Stripey Socks Charles, Andrew and Simon
Looking towards Great Chishill windmill
The second stop was a sad sight, the once glorious Pheasant in Great Chishill, and the first base of The Windmill Club, had shut up shop and is apparently looking for a buyer. Here’s Andrew paying his last respects:
and this is the sad message outside:
In Elmdon we admired the church in the autumn light and then said farewell to Charles who was feeling a little under the weather (get well soon Charles!).
The remaining three set off towards Ickleton but stopped almost immediately to admire the work of a flint wall craftsman rebuilding the church wall. His name was Shane Cahill. ‘Do you know a Sarah Cahill?’, asked Martin. ‘Yes’, Shane said, ‘I’m married to a Sarah, who are you?’ It turned out that his Sarah was the same Sarah who worked for Martin several years ago, the second Monday running that he has come across a relation of an ex-employee whilst on a Windmill ride. They live in Chrishall and so if you need a flint wall rebuilding you know who to contact. Will there be a hat trick on the 11th Martin wondered?
With the light already beginning to fade, we had to speed downhill towards Ickleton and turn right towards Catmere End only to come across the circling Apache, which needed inspecting at close hand whilst it also inspected us, luckily with no guns blazing. Here are some more pics of the evil looking machine:
On we whizzed with our own lights blazing, Apache style, Andrew achieving a creditable 34 mph downhill from Littlebury Green towards Duddenhoe End, and on to Langley Upper Green before finally arriving back at The Bull 10 minutes before opening time. But feeling sorry for the three dogs panting outside on the doorstep landlady Sarah let us in before 5.00pm so that our thirsts could be quenched.
Thanks to Andrew for planning the route and organising us. The 16 miles felt more like 20+.
Sixteen Windmillers! A record turnout, not to mention a serious overtaking challenge for the hard pressed motorists of Cambridgeshire. It was Halloween and the cast list for our rocky horror show was: Ken, Sandra, Andrew, Geoff, Howard, Tom, Ric, Simon, Vernon, Roger, Graham, Lawrence, Keith, Charles, Brian and Deborah; the latter fashionably late but catching up with us a mile down the road.
The ground frost had lifted by the time we got going but even the hardiest among us had decided to forgo the shorts; indeed some were wearing ski gloves.
Ken – this week’s routemeister – had devised a 30-ish mile circuit starting just off the A14 at Boxworth and taking in Papworth Everard, Abbotsley, Waresley and Cambourne. A novel route, especially so for the farmer who took exception to Ken’s shortcut across his land in a bid to avoid the Papworth Everard bypass. The first dozen of us got across before the mass trespass was spotted, but the tailenders – Tom, Ric, Graham, Lawrence, Sandra and Howard – got waylaid and told in no uncertain terms to sling their hook. With the peloton now divided, there was a 15 minute delay while we all caught up with each other again – on the Papworth Everard bypass!
The only other incident of note was a puncture sustained by Roger but this was soon mended.
Pulling in for refreshments at Waresley Park Garden Centre, we enjoyed coffee and cake and debated the issues of the day – polling dates, England’s chances in the rugby world cup, ailments – you know the sort of thing.
Lunch at the Golden Ball on this our first visit was excellent and – a lovely surprise – Maurice turned up looking hale and hearty just two weeks after his operation. Sitting next to him, Brian tested Maurice’s reaction time – not to mention his patience – by tipping a pint over his leg. Thankfully, it wasn’t the one with the stitches.
Thanks, Ken, for planning an excellent outing; Andrew too for getting us all organised.
Six Windmillers set off from The Bull at Lower Langley at 3.00pm – Andrew, Sandra (who rode from home and back again in the dark), Keith, Tim, Nick and Martin. Sadly, Nick had to peel off quite early on due to his shoes slipping badly on his pedals but we hope to see him again soon with the problem fixed, having received various recommendations from the remainder of the gang. This is where we went:
Being half term week, the lanes were blissfully empty of big Volvos and Range Rovers charging along full of children returning home from school. DPD and DHL vans were elsewhere too which enabled us to amble along, albeit averaging over 12mph, and have a natter about Andrew’s recent cruise, Tim’s successful racing season and other topics.
It was in Duddenhoe End that Andrew spotted what looked initially like a potential new member, smartly dressed by the roadside with a hi-viz jacket holding a black container but there was no bike. Stopping to take a closer look he got the fright of his life when the figure turned out to be a spooky dummy offering sweets for Halloween trick or treaters. On closer inspection there seemed to be an even greater resemblance to Andrew himself as this picture shows!
Back at The Bull, where a fascinating Pennine Dark and Light beer was on offer, we enjoyed chatting to the landlady Sarah, who turns out to be the sister of one of Martin’s best ever employees. Small world!
Thanks go to Andrew for organising the circuit and getting us round in daylight. For the next few weeks, good lights and hi viz wear will be mandatory.
The season turns, nights draw in and Windmillers wrap up warm against the autumn chill; apart from Sandra, Simon and Charles who, being made of sterner stuff, refuse to give up the shorts until Jack Frost nips at their kneecaps.
So it was that Sandra in her lycra summer wear, Simon in his Baden Powell britches, and Charles in his signature stripey socks, met up with the rest of us in our sensible leggings. We were at The Woodman for our weekly Thursday outing and, for the record, the others in our gang were: Ken, Martin, Graham, Lawrence, Roger, Brian and Deborah; the latter looking remarkably spry considering she had finished a night shift just a few hours earlier.
Setting out from The Woodman, Sandra – this week’s routemeister – steered us via Wyddial to Buntingford and then on through Westmill, Great Munden, Moor Green and Ardeley – where we pulled in for coffee and cake at Church Farm. The place was decked out for Halloween and the cake selection featured various spooky treats. Graham sampled the Halloween Chilli Sponge while Simon opted for the Bloodstained Victoria Sandwich. Meanwhile Deborah – with an afternoon’s horse riding still to come – kept going with strong coffee.
Refreshed and back on the bikes, we followed Sandra out of Ardeley towards Cromer for the return leg to Nuthampstead. With the sugar beet harvest in full swing, the roads hereabouts were liberally coated in mud and we soon assumed a somewhat mud-speckled appearance. When the rain arrived it was a mixed blessing; we got wet – but we also got clean again.
Tumbling back into the Woodman, we were delighted to be joined by John Bagrie while Deborah headed off to the stables. We enjoyed a pint and a jolly good lunch.
It had been an excellent ride along a well chosen route: scenic and almost traffic free. Thanks, Sandra.
What do Francis Crick, Mary Archer, the Guided Busway and Rupert Brooke have in common? Answer: They were all part of Simon’s fascinating educational tour of South Cambridgeshire on this fine autumn day which encompassed science, engineering, poetry and the Archers – an everyday story of Granchester folk.
Starting from Martin’s house in Ickleton after coffee and biscuits and a quick wizz around his field maze on their bikes, thirteen Windmillers comprising Simon, Sandra, Keith (celebrating his birthday), Brian, Roger, Ric, Lawrence, Graham, Nigel, Geoff, Charles, Neil and Martin set off in the direction of Duxford stopping briefly at the Ickleton Lion for any last minute arrivals.
Navigating the maze
…hotly pursued by Sandra, Keith, Brian, Lawrence, Simon and Graham
This is what Simon had planned for our enjoyment:
After crossing the A505 at Duxford, when Simon somehow achieved a Jesus-like parting of the traffic allowing all to cross simultaneously, we waited for Graham to catch up before taking the bike path from Whittlesford to Sawston and continuing along the newly upgraded bike path to Stapleford and Shelford, passing Tom’s house as we did so. Then the science bit started, with a ride along the now famous DNA bike path towards Addenbrooke’s Hospital:
At the end of the bike path we stopped to admire the complex of buildings and roads on the Addenbrooke’s site and to hear Simon talk about Francis Crick and Jim Watson who discovered DNA in 1953, with the considerable assistance of one of their researchers, Rosalind Franklin, who was not credited to the same extent and who, some might argue, should also have been in line for a Nobel prize.
Next stop was the busway and bike path alongside to Trumpington, stopping to hear from Simon about its development and issues since construction, including a bus careering across the bike path and ploughing into a bank a couple of years ago, just a week before the Windmill Club passed the same spot………. Opinions are divided as to whether this represents progress in transportation.
The Cambridge busway at Trumpington
Granchester was the next stop, reached by a delightful path behind the Park and Ride car park, across a huge new country park and diving into thick woods leading to Byron’s Pool before passing the Archers’ Old Vicarage and entering the famous Orchard Tea Garden. Famous not only for Rupert Brooke and his poetry, quoted by Simon during coffee (the first verse of The Soldier is on the plan above) but also frequented by dozens of other famous people including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, Francis Crick, D H Lawrence, A A Milne, H G Wells, Ted Hughes, Henry James, King George VI, Prince Edward and now a group of illustrious Windmillers too!
Ken joined us during coffee and so we were fourteen as we started on the homeward leg via some off road tracks leading over the M11 towards Barton and then on to Haslingfield, Harston and Newton before taking another off road stretch to Whittlesford along what turned out to be a smooth track whilst some decided to take the direct route back to the Ickleton Lion.
True to the Windmill tradition, having owned up to having a birthday Keith very kindly bought a round of drinks and received a hearty rendering of Happy Birthday to You in return. Over lunch we thought of Maurice and his knee operation taking place that day and wished him well. Charles impressed us with his method of paying his bill – no cash, no credit card, just his smart watch and phone. Windmillers are always ahead of the game.
Thanks were given to Simon for planning and executing such a great ride and we are all looking forward to the others that are taking place during the absence of Maurice and Andrew – no pressure on the organisers!
Well done to the several members who clocked up considerably more than 28 miles on this ride due to riding to and from their homes, namely Sandra, Ric, Brian, Neil and Geoff.
P.S. Maurice’s operation went very well and he is now back home on crutches and climbing stairs.