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15 March. Colinas bastardos, again. 21 miles.

Spring was definitely in the air on this pleasant afternoon but with fewer Windmillers out for a ride than usual. Could it be because this was a repeat of last week’s ‘colinas bastardos’ ride which Maurice put us through, illustrated above, leaving all but the e-bike brigade puffing and panting up the hills, or was it the Astra Zeneca jab that has been causing side affects? Sadly, Deborah suffered a bit from the AZ which meant she had to pull out (hopefully better now) and Alan was due to be jabbed, the reports of which resulted in a large amount of anecdotal data being supplied by Windmillers to vaccinator, and occasional rider, Tim. We hope to see him back when he has finished jabbing. Several Windmillers reported AZ side effects but these seem to last only a few days at worst, and no blood clots so far.

Besides Maurice, the others taking part in the repeat of last week’s roller coaster ride were Andrew, Lawrence, Charles, Victor, Graham, Suzanne and Martin. Andrew reported a head wind on the bastardo from the B1039 to Littlebury Green and so he was relieved to stop and have a chat about Schwalbe Marathons whilst getting his breath back.

Ace salesman Andrew doing his Schwalbe Marathon spiel
Victor and Andrew full of the joys of spring

Was it hi-viz Maurice or hi-viz Charles speeding towards us at one stage? And then we noticed the smart socks which could only mean one thing – the sartorially elegant Charles of course astride his new Gazelle:

Charles looking the part

And then Lawrence hoved into view, looking equally elegant. What a smart bunch we all are, setting standards for other bike clubs to emulate! Thank God we don’t wear a standard uniform.

Lawrence looking coordinated

Graham caught up with Martin and Suzanne outside this familiar hedge and helped to settle a discussion about the correct pronunciation of topiary, which Martin had got very wrong:

Topiary pronounced toepieary or toepiary – definitely the latter! (Thanks to Graham and Suzanne for putting me right. Ed.)

And next door, this familiar house with its magnificent garden which can just be seen over the hedge by standing up on the pedals was looking great in the afternoon sun. The charming owner came out from her kitchen and said that the house dated from 1520 with a later addition on the north side.

Valence Manor, Sheepcote Green – this classic house has unusual chimneys with diagonal shafts

Graham had already clocked up a huge number of km before joining the ride at Littlebury, having been in the Brinkley area earlier in the day, and so was clearly still dead set on beating his 2020 distance. Not wishing to cheat, unlike Martin, Suzanne and Andrew who chose not to complete the course last week due to inclement weather, Graham continued on towards Littlebury at Strethall Cross Roads instead of taking the easier option back to Ickleton. And storming up the last Colina Bastardo, the steepest of them all, in the way he did was most impressive. Well done Graham.

Thanks go as usual to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride and to Charles for hosting a new mini charity box, last week’s maxi box apparently getting a bit waterlogged and soggy.

Martin

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Lockdown Monday rides

New box, new socks

Charles certainly stamped his mark on this outing. We all know the man for his signature stripey hose – a look he has made all his own – but this Monday he was resplendent in a pair of fabulous new socks; all the colours of the rainbow on a tasteful black background. And the novelty didn’t stop there, back at the ranch Charles had crafted a new charity box, much bigger than the tatty old one, big enough indeed to kennel a large dog.

Charles’ new charity box – with Brian alongside for a sense of scale

Was it just me, or was this circuit particularly hilly? Whatever, eleven Windmillers turned out and most, I hope, got back before the worst of the rain later that afternoon.

For the record, the turnout was: Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Rod, Graham, Martin, Suzanne, Jeremy, Lawrence, Victor and Brian. And, for once, we captured everyone on camera. Here’s the photos, fresh back from the chemist . . .

Charles and Jeremy
Victor and Andrew
Martin and Suzanne
Rod
Graham, with Rod disappearing in the distance
Lawrence
Thumbs up, Maurice
Charles – modelling hosiery for the fashion conscious cyclist
21 very hilly miles

Thanks are due, as ever, to Maurice for the route, Andrew for logistics and Martin, Jeremy, Charles and Victor for pictures.

Brian

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4 March. I-Spy with my little eye something beginning with P. 26 miles.

Puncture? Prospect of Whitby? Pin Mill? Performance enhancer? (Just a few examples of Ps found on recent WhatsApp messages). No, none of these. The clue is in the above photo – Pond of course! And not just one, either – there were 10 spied between Debden Green and Henham but only one had ducks in evidence. Does anyone know why there are so many ponds on this stretch of road?

There was some debate as to whether this ride should take place due to the weather forecast but in the event 16 Windmillers decided to brave it – Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Jenni, Simon, Geoff, Graham, Mike, Ken, Lawrence, Suzanne, Howard, Roger, Alan, Charles and Martin – and raised £90 in the process. Most didn’t get too wet but all must have got cold and so the café at Elsenham level crossing did a roaring trade, not to mention a café in Stansted Mountfichet that also welcomed a few.

The Elsenham café was a friendly place and well worth a repeat visit, although conversations were frequently curtailed as trains thundered through. The level crossing must surely be one of the last to use manually controlled gates (known as a female crossing in India) and the operator had his work cut out constantly opening and closing them.

Roger teamed up with Ken, Suzanne and Martin to ride as two pairs from Elsenham to Manuden where he peeled off back to base in Furneux Pelham. Meanwhile Simon headed anticlockwise from Elsenham and was seen again just as he was finishing in Littlebury Green.

Graham and Mike were not encountered en route, nor Alan or Lawrence, but Mike clearly had a puncture to contend with at some stage:

Mike hard at work mending a rear wheel puncture.
Rickling Church waiting patiently for some warmer weather, with only 4 daffodils in evidence so far.

Officially 26 miles, the actual distance covered by those not living in Saffron Walden or Wendens Ambo would have been considerably more, and so well done in particular to Suzanne who started in Abington and rode to Saffron Walden via Hadstock, clocking up closer to 50 miles in total.

Thanks once again to Maurice for planning the ride, Andrew for organising us and hosting the charity box and to photographers Simon and Graham.

Martin

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Lockdown Monday rides

St David’s Day Ride

We have English, Scots and Irish in the team but, to the best of my knowledge, no Welsh. More’s the pity, as this was a St. David’s Day outing.

And a chilly day it was too as a dozen Windmillers set off – some solo, some in pairs – for a 20 mile ride taking in Elmdon, Arkesden, Clavering, Brent Pelham, Langley Upper Green and Chrishall.

Being the Windmill Club, we are always on the lookout for a windmill photo opportunity. But have you noticed the shocking state of the mill at Brent Pelham? An oil painting it ain’t. Erected in 1826, it was adapted in the 20th century to house a water tank, was clad in corrugated iron and – as you will see below – is now in a very sorry state, indeed. Once Roger has finished restoring Furneux Pelham church maybe he can step in and restore Brent Pelham’s mill to its former glory.

For the record, Monday’s riders included Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Nick, Geoff, Rod, Jeremy, Alan, Suzanne, Graham, Deborah and Brian. Poor old Geoff had to repair a puncture but, apart from that, I believe everybody got around just fine.

20 miles on a Monday

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising things. Charles too for hosting the charity box.

Brian

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Lockdown

What’s news?

If, like me, these twice weekly outings are the highlight of your lockdown, you will understand just how it lifts the spirit to see a fellow Windmiller pedalling your way. The hail-fellow-well-met is followed by the inevitable question, “What’s news?”, knowing full well your pal will have very little to report, and neither will you. Whereas a year ago we all had stories to swap and issues of the day to debate over a pub lunch, these days it’s just a brief bantered exchange on a country lane.

Friends Electric, Charles and Rod
Friends Mechanical, Graham and Mike

But there is some good news on the horizon. The end of lockdown is in sight and – come 29th March – it looks like we will be able to resume our Rule-of-Six rides. Welcome news, indeed, but an organisational nightmare for Andrew.

Then on 12 April, pub gardens open. Hallelujah! – 40 days and counting.

Lone Ranger Roger
Windmill Mob bosses, Andrew and Maurice

For the record, Thursday’s runners and riders were Maurice, Andrew, Laurence, Ken, Graham, Mike, Martin, Suzanne, Brian, Geoff, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Roger, Alan, Rod and Charles. Phew! That’s 17 Windmillers, all socially distanced, not to mention stone cold sober.

Mirror, mirror on the green, Who is the fairest you have seen? . . . It’s Martin!
Laurence, all smiles, but Simon isn’t so sure

As far as I know, nobody fell off or suffered a puncture. Some even managed to source a coffee at Elsenham or Stansted Mountfitchet, and we hear those two trenchermen, Graham and Mike, somehow managed two breakfasts; one at Flint Cross and another at Great Chishill.

Brian looks on while Geoff re-takes his cycling proficiency test

Then there’s Suzanne who did some fifty miles from home, as did Brian from his, and Martin who clocked up a very respectable thirty eight. Deborah’s natty new hi-viz was widely admired – and visible from space. Oh, and Ken and Suzanne found a lovely final resting place; see below.

Dead centre in Manuden, Ken and Suzanne
Churchgoers Deborah and Jenni
Lawrence, The Old Cock at Henham

Much love and thanks, as ever, to Andrew and Maurice for all their efforts; and not forgetting Charles, Martin and Simon for the many excellent photographs.

27 miles, whichever way you go

Brian

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22 February. The Bull at Lower Langley? 20 miles

Graham’s photo of a happy bull munching on Spring grass brought back equally happy memories of long summer evenings sitting outside The Bull at Lower Langley having a pint. Passing it on this ride whilst it was locked up and empty reinforced these feelings but hopefully, it won’t be long now before we can feel bullish once again.

There were 14 Windmillers taking part on this ride around familiar lanes, the others being Maurice, Andrew, Lindsey, Alan, Rod, Deborah (who set off early), Charles, Suzanne, Lawrence, Brian, Jeremy, Geoff and Martin – another wonderful turnout. Most expected a continuation of the fine weather recently but were somewhat surprised when it rained unexpectedly, but not to the extent of getting soaked thankfully. Just a bit cold and damp which reminded us of the early weeks of 2021.

Elmdon was the departure point for Suzanne and Martin, on the stroke of 12.30pm.

It was very quiet for the first part of the ride, at least for Suzanne and Martin, with hardly a soul to be seen. But shortly after Clavering, Charles arrived suddenly from behind, screeched to a halt to take a couple of photos and then Gazelled off at high speed where he met a traffic jam of Windmillers at the Starlings Green junction, all socially distanced of course.

And then Brian and Jeremy arrived too, looking happy despite the damp.

It was a bit like old times as Andrew, Lindsey, Suzanne and Martin cycled on clockwise, a good distance apart but swapping around and having a variety of conversations which is what makes Windmill rides so special. (Do tune in to Planet Normal if you don’t already listen to this podcast!) In the meantime poor Graham was sitting in a bus shelter somewhere mending a puncture:

Graham with an interesting assortment of puncture repair gear around him. Perhaps using RapidDough is the latest technique?
Rod stopping for a quick swig, well kitted out for the weather.
Maurice and Alan going AC. Now where’s that postbox? Answers on a postcard please.
Lights blazing, Brian and Jeremy are coming through, still happy as sandpipers.

Back at Charles’s house in Chrishall, where he kindly hosted the charity box, a ghostly image appeared from a steamy upstairs window, stark naked, as Martin and Suzanne were depositing their fivers. And then it spoke, which scared the living daylights out of the two Windmillers. Was it the ghost of Chalky Lane spying to ensure that fivers and no coins were inserted? No, it was Charles himself leaning out of the window, baring his torso having enjoyed a hot shower and advising Martin as to the wherabouts of a package left for him by Maurice. Phew! That was the stuff of nightmares. Please don’t do that again Charles.

This is where we went:

A ride that should please the Scots, English and Welsh.

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to Graham, Charles and others who contributed photos – keep ’em coming.

Martin

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19 February. Luke 6: Verses 39-40. 24 miles.

The Gospel according to St. Luke and the nursery rhyme about Little Bo Peep losing her sheep sprang to mind after hearing from Simon about the 38 miles he and Andrew clocked up, when most Windmillers only managed around 24 miles on this repeat of a ride done only 2 weeks ago. Being PC about this, you’ll have to reach for your Bible to read the above passage, but suffice to say, The Unknowing leading the Unknowing is not far off the mark.

Simon explained that Andrew memorizes the route beforehand and has no need of modern contraptions like phones or GPX devices, or even Simon’s route on Komoot. Perhaps it was Andrew’s recent vaccination but Simon says long-covid had been avoided only to be replaced by long-rovid as they cycled along together. They indeed roved both near and far from the allotted route, despite the lovely Komoot lady from the Deep South screaming ‘Do a U-turn’, and ended up doing a semi-circumnavigation of Wimpole Hall. But, ‘It’s only fun when you get a bit lost’, claimed Andrew and by that measure Simon said they had quite a bit of fun! (Glad I’m not the only one who got lost on this route -see 4 February report. Ed. )

Just as a reminder, this is where we went 2 weeks ago and where we were all meant to go again:

There were other diversions too for some Windmillers due to a serious accident blocking the road between Chrishall Grange and the turning to Duxford Grange – a head on collision between a van and a car – but these only resulted in an extra mile or so via Ickleton. Reports of the accident have been difficult to find but we hope that no one was seriously hurt. By 12.30pm the vehicles concerned had been cleared away.

Scene of the accident near Chrishall Grange. A UPS van was one of the vehicles involved.

The remaining 14 Windmillers who did not get lost comprised Maurice, Charles, Alan, Geoff, Roger, Graham, Mike, Suzanne, Howard, Brian, Jeremy, Rod, Lawrence, Ken and Martin – another excellent turnout – with Lawrence kindly hosting the charity box. Once again, The Moringa Tree Café proved to be a good meeting place as the C’s met the AC’s, joined at one stage by a couple of Brompton riders who had commuted out from Cambridge on their fine bikes.

For Martin, the highlight was a sausage roll as recommended by Brian recently – one of the best ever. But he was a bit disappointed they didn’t sell Moringa, a tree whose chopped up leaves are thought to cure all known ailments, even hangovers.

Graham looking on enviously as Martin is about to tuck into his sausage roll

The AC route from The Moringa Tree involved the steep Chapel Hill towards Barrington, where Geoff was encountered going C-wards and where Rod and Charles caught up with the socially distanced group of Graham, Suzanne, Mike and Martin going AC-wards, having rocketed up Chapel Hill on their e-bikes. The cruise through to Orwell was pleasant but thereafter a strong wind was on the nose resulting in Rod and Martin, it has to be admitted, holding hands at one point (but only because Rod kindly offered to give Martin a tow, in case you were wondering).

Brian and Jeremy stopping for a breather
Suzanne and Graham homeward bound
Ken and Charles overlooking Duxford airfield

Back in Duxford, Mike spotted a beaten up Triumph Herald Convertible in a back garden awaiting restoration and promptly told a tale about how he and three other students drove such a car to Istanbul and back in the 60’s, with countless breakdowns there and back, including a wheel falling off, but getting back in one piece. Those cars were indeed repairable on the move, unlike today’s electronics-laden vehicles which are fine until they go wrong. Perhaps the same thing can be said for e-bikes!

Fancy squashing four people into this and driving to Istanbul without seat belts? No thanks! But mad Mike did just that.

And so ended a fine ride in very mild weather, which augurs well for the weeks and months to come.

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organising us, but step up someone to be Andrew’s map reading / GPX tutor! (And can I join in too? Ed.)

Martin

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15 February. The last of the winter whine? 20 miles

Have we heard the last of the whines about the cold weather experienced over the past 6 weeks? Can we finally shed a layer or two and stop discussing the merits and costs of heated bike gloves? Who will be the first to bare their knees? If this day was anything to go by we can look forward to some nice balmy days ahead. And with talk of infections coming down, lockdown being eased, pubs opening, birthdays being celebrated and even summer holidays being mentioned, this might explain why Windmillers were such a cheery, smiling bunch on ths ride (but isn’t this always the case?). Deborah’s photo above of Audley End House and happy munching geese sort of sums it all up.

A large turnout of 12 Windmillers for a Monday was also an indication of happier times, the others being Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Charles, Nick, Simon, Lawrence, Alan, Geoff, Suzanne and Martin, all joining a CAC circuit planned by Maurice and with Charles hosting the charity box, which collected the grand sum of £75 with more due.

This is where we went:

But despite the sun and warmth there were still signs here and there of the snow and ice that we have endured in recent weeks, with a surprising amount still surviving on the road from Elmdon towards Crawley End:

Suzanne and an ex-snowdrift near Elmdon

Further reports of snow near Poppy’s Barn were also heard but not enough to concern anyone as it was melting rapidly, and had probably disappeared completely by the time Deborah reached it, having started later than others.

The e-bike brigade of Maurice, Rod, Charles and Nick were seen whizzing around on their high powered steeds but Charles was happy to slam on his disc brakes in Elmdon to show off his fancy new Gazelle:

Charles saddled up on his speedy Gazelle

Thanks go as usual to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride. Where would we be without those heroes?

Martin

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4 February. Gazelle spotted in South Cambs. 24 miles.

Not the one above, which is capable of a 60 mph sprint and a 30 mph sustained speed, but this one:

Yes, Charles has finally joined the e-bike brigade and here he is proudly showing off his new Dutch Gazelle to fellow e-bike enthusiast Geoff who promptly offered to loan his speed gadget to encourage Charles to get closer to a real gazelle’s cruising speed of 30 mph (but not a chance of reaching 60 mph).

Charles’s conversion brings the number of e-Windmillers up to five, and it probably won’t be long before a few more sign up……………. They are a brilliant means of getting around our lanes, but heaving them on / off or into a car requires either a decent carrier or muscles like Maurice.

The focus of this CAC ride was Fowlmere where Lawrence kindly hosted our charity box, into which the grand sum of £115 including a handful of 50p pieces was deposited. This was the result of 16 Windmillers taking part, the others being Andrew, Alan, Roger, Graham, Julia, Ken, Howard, Brian, Jeremy, Tom, Rod and Martin. This is where we went:

Thanks to Brian’s recommendation of the Moringa Tree café in Haslingfield this proved to be a popular stop for a coffee, so popular that much social distancing was necessary whilst excellent coffee was consumed. No doubt, Brian was looking forward to munching on another sausage roll.

A Moringa Tree in the wild. It’s a tropical tree that can survive droughts. Moringa is often called the drumstick tree because of its skinny, foot-long pods. It also goes by mother’s best friend, the miracle tree, the never die tree, and the ben oil tree. You can eat almost all of the moringa, including the seeds, flower, and leaves. There are different types. Moringa oleifera — the most studied one — comes from south Asia and has been eaten there for centuries. Moringa is also common in Africa. It’s been used to treat everything from tumors to toothaches. So there you are, ask for a cup of Moringa Tree tea the next time you’re in Haslingfield and all your current and future ills will be cured.

En route to Haslingfield, Windmillers hailed each other regularly as they passed, sometimes in the sun but more often in fog / mist which blanketed parts of the countryside and made other Windmillers quite difficult to spot at times. There were also noticeably more cyclists on the roads, probably due to the proximity of Cambridge.

The Imperial War Museum basking in sunshine
Simon and Lawrence. Watch out for those South Cambs speed bumps – they work.
Roger chose his hi-viz outfit due to thick fog in Furneux Pelham when he set off.

All in all, this was a very easy and pleasant ride with an excellent turnout. Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising it and to Graham for some of the photos.

Martin

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Monday rides

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Riding past Simon’s house on a chilly February morning, Jeremy and Brian spotted the man himself, togged out in gardening attire, trundling a wheel barrow across his estate.

“Not cycling today?” we cried.

“Weather’s not great . . . lots of pruning to do,” came the reply.

Grateful for a breather after the stiff hill climb up to Littlebury Green, we asked to see Simon’s famous ship’s bell. Found in a junk shop, he had lovingly restored it, built a frame to mount it, and given it to his missus for Christmas. It was indeed impressive; big and shiny. What else is there to say about a bell but could we hear it ring, please? Alas, it was a little early and Simon feared his neighbours would run for their air raid shelters.

Simon’s magnificent bell . . .
. . . he is particularly proud of his bell end

Once again, Charles hosted the club charity box – this time without the camera trap. It was here that Jeremy and Brian caught up with Andrew. Admiring Jeremy’s new helmet, Andrew and he swapped some rather alarming head injury experiences. That explains a lot, thought Brian.

Chez Charles – he reassures us our privacy will be respected

This day and age, it is hard to believe there is anyone left on the planet who hasn’t taken a selfie. Step up, Deborah Goodman. Her first ever effort, taken while stuffing a fiver into the charity box, shows she needs a bit more practice.

Deborah, concentrating hard

She reported the highlight of her ride was the slice of scrumptious Victoria sponge handed over the hedge by her friend in Langley Upper Green.

Deborah’s friend and a very welcome plate of cake

For the record, Monday’s team roster was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Julia, Lawrence, Martin, Maurice, Nick and Suzanne – all spread out over a 19 mile circuit. Let me know if I’ve missed anyone.

Martin and his carer. Keep up the good work, Suzanne.
She also helps out with Andrew
Jeremy and Brian
19 miles

Thanks as ever, Andrew and Maurice, for planning and organising everything. Thanks too, Charles, for hosting the charity box.

Brian

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29 January. Upright citizens all. 25 miles.

The evidence surrounding last week’s fall guys and a gal was limited to tales of woe after the event. Andrew therefore decided to fall again, this time on purpose, at the same spot that the mighty had fallen but got a wet bum in the process. Imagine black ice and running water at the same place – that’s how it was. But this week, Windmillers were all upright citizens and well behaved for a change.

The CAC route was therefore a repeat of last week’s and the conditions were somewhat better – very mild but also very wet following more rain earlier in the week which led to high river levels and ditches full to overflowing, plus another postponement by a day to a Friday for the second week running. What a cold and wet January it has generally been but the snowdrops and aconites are out, the daffodils are poking through, the birds are singing and all is well, except for the f…ing virus of course.

Looking towards Great Chishill windmill

E-bikers Maurice and Rod were seen in Chrishall doing a C ride as Martin set off and it wasn’t long before C Roger and AC Martin met in Nuthampsted by the war memorial and were busy chatting when Andrew appeared, doing an AC ride. This prompted a socially distanced photo, or are they about to engage in some kind of virus rage? Make up your own mind:

‘Stay away from me – I don’t want your filthy bug.’ Roger and Andrew in Nuthampsted.

Approaching Great Hormead, Graham and Julia were coming the other way, which provided yet another war memorial photo:

Graham and Julia at the memorial for Archie Daniels whose plane crashed near Great Hormead in 1944

Graham and Julia had been helping Charles mend a puncture just down the road but by the time Andrew and Martin got there Charles was busy mending puncture no. 2 as the first repair had not worked. So puncture specialist Andrew quickly got to work whilst Martin didn’t have much to do except drink coffee and record the occasion for posterity, whilst avoiding being soaked by large lorries ploughing through a nearby puddle the size of a small lake. Howard also stopped to lend moral support.

Rod and Maurice were seen once again near Little Hormead, having had a good ride, and meanwhile Charles sped on ahead to catch up on lost time, no doubt thinking about which hi-tech e-bike he might procure. It might have a bell and a whistle.

Hot Rod and Aston Maurice in Little Hormead

The offensive stretch of road near Furneux Pelham was awash with water, which just goes to show how easy it is for this to ice over once the temperature drops. A warning sign or two would be good to see at this site.

The same pony and trap that was featured last week was seen once again in Furneux Pelham accompanied by another – a nice sight and a pleasant reminder of Spring being around the corner.

Windmillers spot all kinds of things on their travels around the lanes – some have a keen eye / ear for birds of the feathered kind, some for the non-feathered kind, some like Sandra can spot a herd of deer a mile away, some are always on the look out for interesting landscapes, some are petrol heads but Simon is always looking out for rusty old bits of junk lying in farmyards and hedgerows. This is the gem he spotted between Wicken Bonhunt and Arkesden:

Now isn’t that just the best bit of scrap you’ve ever seen? Simon would love to have that in his back garden, but Karen might think otherwise.
Or perhaps this? Could come in useful as a tank trap.

The stream was gushing through Arkesden like it was in a real hurry to get to the Wash. Reports of deep water through the ford at Newland End were coming in and so Martin accompanied Julia up past the church as she was finishing her ride and then took a left to Newland End, bypassing the ford. Andrew carried on, negotiated the ford successfully – his bum was already wet and so he wouldn’t have minded falling in – and then bumped into Martin again near Anne Curry’s house, the lady sculptor, at Newland End – well worth visiting on a fine day when she is holding an exhibition.

Charles kindly hosted the charity box once again but this time with a camera installed nearby to deter burglars and also check up on Windmillers depositing their fivers. But, somewhat akin to how wild animals adjust to cameras eavesdropping in their natural environment, Windmillers acted in a similar way when discovering it. Brian took a photo of it, Howard peered at it and Simon even picked it up, tossed it around and repositioned it. Clearly, we’re all animals beneath the surface, some wilder than others.

Big brother is watching you!

Others taking part in the ride were Brian and Jeremy, who did the northern section, Geoff (whose bruise from last week is hopefully better), Mike (who was seen heading off for a few more km with Graham), and Ken (who did a later ride). Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride and bringing better weather this week.

Martin

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22 January. The Fall Guys (and a Gal). 25 miles.

Who would have thought that within a mile of this glorious photograph of a pony and trap outside Furneux Pelham church, Windmillers were skidding and sliding on the most severe black ice experienced in the history of The Windmill Club? Despite messages and phone calls this didn’t stop Rod, Mike, Geoff, Charles, Martin (the fall guys) and Deborah (the fall gal) all toppling off at different times, some at Furneux Pelham and some elsewhere. Luckily all escaped serious injury but with a few bruises for some. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence of the carnage which took place – it’s hard to imagine from the photos that follow that such conditions could have existed, but they did. This is not fake news. (Happy to add photos of bruises at a later date. Ed.)

The ride planned for the day before was cancelled due to the high winds of Storm Christoph, but did anyone read The Guardian early on Friday?

Freeze expected on heels of flooding damage from Storm Christoph, shouted the headline and this was indeed confirmed by Charles at 07.44 and Andrew at 08.01.

For Martin, the day started with a slithery drive up to Chrishall from Ickleton – quite good fun in fact using opposite lock on some of the bends. But that resulted in another warning message to Windmillers followed by orders from barking Dawg Andrew to DISMOUNT on the hill down to Wicken Bonhunt. However, before then, Deborah had already had a nasty fall into the road when avoiding a car coming towards her and was taking it easy, suffering from a bruised hip, when Charles and Martin caught up with her between Rickling and Berden. Tales then slowly emerged of other falls, mainly on the Furneux Pelham black ice.

A large herd of deer, including Albinos, sandwiched between Charles and Roger near Rickling. Roger was unaware at this stage of the black ice to come, so close to his home in Furneux Pelham.
Rod giving an account of his fall – broken mirror and a bruise but could have been worse. Martin suggested he might strap an airbag on the back of his bike in future. Meanwhile, Maurice escaped unscathed.

Charles sped on ahead and so Deborah and Martin cruised slowly onwards, stopping for a coffee in the bus shelter just before Furneux Pelham where a call was received from Charles warning of the ice in the lane after the church, where he had two falls.

Deborah enjoying her coffee not knowing what was in store just a mile further on………

Alan caught up as Deborah and Martin were chatting to the owner of the pony and trap in Furneux Pelham after which, with some trepidation, they proceeded onwards to tackle the ice. Just before getting to the dodgy part, they met Mike and Graham coming the other way, Mike having had a painful tumble but Graham managed to get through without falling, having sensibly reduced his tyre pressures. It was tempting to do a U-turn at that point but, hey-ho, Windmillers are always up for a challenge and so Alan led the way forward, very gingerly. The road was awash with water and black ice – a lethal combination – but having got through what was meant to be the worst bit, Martin had his second fall of the day (the first during a photo shoot) when, despite a shout from Alan, his Schwalbe Marathons at 90psi decided to give way on an icy camber and off he came. However, he was practically stationary at the time and his slow motion fall was described by Deborah, who had a good view from behind, as being ‘the most uncool fall’ she had ever witnessed. How’s that for fame?

Proceeding in a sociually distanced / obeying the rules fashion, the trio settled down to enjoy the final downwind stretch towards Anstey and Nuthamsted when Alan pulled up sharply with puncture no. 2 in his front tyre, the first one having happened before he set off. It was tough work getting his tyre back on the rim but once achieved all went smoothly from then on.

Alan and Martin commencing puncture repair no. 2 on Alan’s bike – a thin piece of flint may have been the culprit.

Others taking part were Howard, Julia, Lawrence, Brian and Jeremy. Howard and Roger were warned about the ice as they passed through Anstey and escaped unscathed, Julia used her gravel bike and went off road at times to avoid the ice, Lawrence went off-route, courtesy of Komoot, which must have known of the ice as it took him a different way, and Brian / Jeremy must have had a premonition of the disaster to come having announced beforehand they would not be riding the Furneux Pelham stretch – wise men! (Actually, it was because they were starting from Shelford – lucky them.)

This is the icy circuit:

Back at Charles’s house, where he was hosting the charity box, who would have known what adventures we had experienced? The weather was idyllic, Brian had been happily trying to obtain water from Charles’s emergency water supply (frozen solid perhaps) and Deborah was playing with her new puppy Esther which had returned for a spot of puppy sitting by Fiona. A different world.

It was a lovely ride, Maurice, despite the ice but one we shall no doubt be still talking about for many years to come. And thanks to Andrew for his organisation and for barking orders at us – that’s what to expect from a good dawg. Thanks also to Brian and Deborah for some of the photos (and for the blog title, Deborah!).

Martin

PS Charles reports that the grand sum of £115 was raised, which includes some past debts and advance payments. Maurice will soon need to present a balance sheet to keep tabs on the accounts.

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18 January. B–st-rds galore. 20 miles.

The good thing about lockdown is that it brings out Windmillers in their droves to keep fit and remain sane. And our charity box fills up handsomely as a result. As Charles put it so eloquently on WhatsApp, he saw lots of b–st-rds on the circuit – a possible record for a Monday with 16 Windmillers taking part.

Mind you, after the terrible weather of late who wouldn’t want to jump on a bike and enjoy almost Spring-like conditions? Grab the opportunity whilst you can seemed to be the order of the day.

Simon very kindly hosted the charity box and was just about to set off at 12.30pm when Suzanne and Martin arrived having cycled from Abington and Ickleton, meeting Julia on the way who shot up Coploe Hill like greased lightning. After an inspection of Simon’s impressive raised asparagus beds which he had been mending that morning, Andrew then arrived and they set off in an AC direction using the same route as the week before. Others taking part were Maurice, Rod, Geoff, Graham, Victor, Brian, Deborah, Jenni, Lawrence and Alan.

This is where we went:

Andrew double checking his Schwalbe Marathons at Simon’s
Suzanne and Simon ready for the off. Note Simon’s smart new charity box, weighed down with a chunk of lead to stop it blowing away. (But extra booty for a thief should it be stolen.)

Martin and Suzanne set off in a C direction and it wasn’t long before they came across the stationary figure of Rod at the bottom of Hill Bastardo furiously pumping air into his rear tyre due to a slow puncture. Removing the rear wheel of his e-bike was not something he would relish and after some discussion he decided to carry on up the hill and to review the situation at Simon’s house, if he got there. Luckily for him, rescue man Maurice was not far behind who caught him up at Simon’s and proceeded to inject some kind of super sealant mixed with Propane into the tyre, ensuring no sparks were created, and this did the trick. Zefal is the name of the magic potion apparently. Just as well it didn’t explode as Rocket Rod could be on the moon by now.

Will I, won’t I get as far as Simon’s?

Cruising around the lanes at a leisurely pace was very pleasant, and a reminder that the weather is kind to us most of the time. It’s probably also fed up with lockdown and likes to blow it’s top every now and again.

Geoff going AC near Strickling Green

Brian and Victor, on the other hand, were clearly setting out to break records having reported cycling so fast, heads down, that they whizzed straight past Simon’s house. They clocked up 35 miles having started from Stapleford / Shelford and saw Rod, Maurice, Charles and Julia on their AC circuit. No doubt Graham clocked up a huge distance too and Suzanne would also have done around 40 miles. Well done to all the long distance travellers.

Simon reported that £75 was collected but this should swell once some dues are settled on the next ride.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation of the ride.

Martin

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15 January. Floody cold for 20 miles.

On the whole the weather has not been very kind to us so far in January and today was no exception, despite the ride being postponed from the day before when it was truly awful. At least it wasn’t raining but on the other hand the heavy rain of the 14th caused river levels to rise and flood the roads badly around Hinxton, resulting in U-turns by some Windmillers and cold wet feet for others. The lucky ones escaped with a diversion to the main road between Ickleton and Duxford, thanks to WhatApp pinging away.

It was also very cold as 15 Windmillers ventured out at various times from 9.30am onwards to avoid mingling and to obey the rules, and it worked out well. Barista Lawrence (more anon) very kindly hosted the charity box again which received visits from Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Mike, Ken, Brian, Jeremy (a friend of Brian’s), Rod, Alan, Roger, Charles and Martin.

Martin took a look at his weather station at 9.36am and decided that 5 layers were needed and a 10.30am start was quite early enough.

Hello Simon! Hello Charles! It’s funny how one’s vision plays tricks when there are many other cyclists on the road. How do you spot a Windmiller charging towards you if he/she is not displaying a toy windmill provided specifically for that purpose last year? Before reaching Duxford Martin was convinced he saw Simon in his usual summer gear and then he swore he saw some stripey socks on the chap riding behind Deborah in Whittlesford but his cheery hellos got no responses, just looks of ‘who is this nutter?’. But it was Deborah in Whittlesford, wasn’t it? If not, it was another lovely lady who smiled. A later report from Graham confirmed it was definitely not Simon because, adding on a few extra miles at the end of his ride, he was surprised to come across Simon near Wenden Lofts, just a wee bit off route……..

By taking the Ickleton to Duxford Road, going AC, little did Martin realise the carnage going on just half a mile away across the flooded meadows. Brian and Jeremy had forgotten their swimming trunks, otherwise they might have combined their bikes into a pedalo to traverse the first flood leading towards Hinxton, and so they U-turned and continued to Ickleton on the main road. Graham, Mike and Alan meanwhile tackled the flood on the Ickleton side of Hinxton, also going AC, and got through even though it was ankle deep at times on the pedals. Luckily they were not swept downstream but Mike got very wet and eventually retired in Thriplow with feet so cold they could not turn the pedals.

Here are the dilemmas they faced:

Howling like wolves in the tunnel under the M11 at Little Shelford, Martin and Andrew stopped for a chat. Andrew confessed that he had two punctures already that week in his beloved Schwalbe Marathons and so he’s already in the running for the puncture prize 2021 barely two weeks in. He blamed long thorns from recent hedgecutting, which is indeed a nuisance this time of year.

I love my Schwalbe Marathons!

Another encounter took place near Thriplow when Brian and Jeremy told of their earlier experience in Hinxton and it was good to see Geoff too coming up behind, pleased that his e-bike is now behaving itself.

The coffee stop rules at Lawrence’s were obeyed to the letter when Martin arrived. No one was around and so he selected a garden chair to stretch out and soak up what little sun there was and to drink his coffee. It wasn’t long, however, before the patron himself arrived and offered a proper coffee which was accepted by Roger who arrived too. Barista Lawrence duly went indoors, got out his coffee making gear and after much steam generation and hissing he delivered a fine looking brew at the take away window.

The best Barista in Fowlmere.
Ever smiling Roger, despite his frozen toes.

Lawrence reported that the local water table had risen to a level not seen for many years, the proof of which was to be found in a ditch between Fowlmere and the A505. For the benefit of this historic occasion a stop had to be made at said ditch:

The Fowlmere ditch that never fills with water. Wasn’t it Boris Johnson who said in September 2019 he would rather be dead in a ditch than ask Brussels for an extension to Brexit? This one might have suited him quite well, a bit narrow perhaps?

After Chrishall Grange Roger and Martin went their separate ways. Just before Ickleton Martin heard a whooshing of tyres behind him, clearly someone coming up fast, and of course it turned out to be Graham who had been half way round the world already that day. Well done, Graham , you’re clearly out to beat your 2020 record.

This is where we went:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5195952

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew once again for their organisation, to all those who took photos and to Graham for the previous evening’s Zoom meeting (but not well attended probably due to no ride that ride). We raised £80 according to Lawrence, including accounts receivable.

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Monday 11 Jan 2021. Virus Challenge

I know corona virus is all around us, but these are not tough days, these are challenging days. These are some of the most challenging days we have ever known. The challenge of course is to stay fit and sane, so that you are ready for when things finally perk up. Think warm spring sunshine, a pint in one hand. You know you can do it, take it one day at a time.

From Littlebury Green I set off clockwise up the hill heading for the Royston road. I needed a breather by the time I got to the radio-tower at the top of the hill. Too much turkey and Christmas pud I suppose. I took a photo and thought, ‘I wonder why those aerials are all different shapes. I bet there are people for whom that is fascinating’. And sure, enough there are fans of radio-towers. You can buy a list of them or download the android app (mastdata), then visit them and tick them off. There are 2342 authentic ones around the country and websites for enthusiasts who add annotated photos and leave comments. I have included one such here.

My local tower. The thing I like most about it is that you know you are finally at the top of the hill.

Somebody is out there making your mobile phone work. Please be grateful in a number of ways.

LTE is ‘long term evolution’ for the uninitiated, a step in our journey to 5G.  My wife didn’t find anything about this surprising. She simply said, ‘I know, I have dated men like than’.

The route was like this:

It’s always a relief to encounter fellow club members on the ride. It means you have got the right day, no mean feat during lock-down. And that you are on the right route, very reassuring when you are as bad at routes as me. I was well into the ride and feeling pigeon poetry coming on before meeting Alan. Very soon Julia and Graham past me. A little later Lawrence and I cycled on, within the rules, for much of the rest of the trip.

Both Rod and Lawrence had close encounters with lorries carrying straw, which are a common hazard this time of year. Either they cover the road with slimy straw or retain some of it on their trailers and push you off the road instead. Likewise, Andrew had the customary 4 by 4 encounter.

Just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean it’s safe of course.  

Club members were able to avail themselves of a new charity box. We raised £60 which I think is commendable for a cold Monday.

We received doctor’s notes to be excused ‘physical education’ from Deborah, who planned to ride but was too tired after Samaritan’s work in the night and Martin with a case of digging-man’s-back. Brian had a good long ride which only overlapped with ours for a very few miles. Those attending in a more conventional sense were Andrew, Rod, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Alan, Lawrence, Maurice. It was a great pleasure to see you all and to know that you are all up for the ‘I’ll still be here after this bloody virus’ challenge.

Since I know some of you are parents with ‘returning’ off-spring I thought I would share with you the following story. It started with a mystery. My son who lives in the other half of the house, beyond the conservatory, would walk through into the main house, use the facilities then return to his domain. Puzzled I eventually enquired why, since there is a bathroom and toilet in his self-contained area. The reply was, ‘well sometimes it smells, and I am working all the time over there’. Yes, I thought that’s why you are an economist. That’s the way most big businesses behave.  

Next Thursday’s ride will be on Friday. As if I weren’t already sufficiently disorientated. By way of retaliation I finish with more pigeon poetry, which various club members have assured me is indeed, very bad. Well here you go, you deserve it.

Pigeon. Early life and career.

I grew up in the North with green fields aplenty
And won my first race by the time I was twenty
Talented they said, contact a pigeon fancier
With wind in my ears what I heard was ‘financier’

To London I went, fine place for a young pigeon
So much money to make, no time for religion
With pigeons of all types, race was no barrier
Did business with fantails, homing and carrier

I know making money is a pursuit sometimes vulgar
Still they built me a tall perch in a square called Trafalgar
With grey sky above me, some dreary Admiral below
Doing business was easy for this bird in the know

They came crying help! for my business is blighted
You’re a smart pigeon, so clever, farsighted 
Being able to see things from great elevation
I got rich doing deals between business and nation

I retired to Essex where the sky is much bluer
With big fields of grain and where people are fewer
Enjoying apple buds in the spring and grain in the fall
Being a healthy old pigeon is no trouble at all

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7 January. Traffic jam in Fowlmere

‘How many layers are you wearing?’ was the topic of many a conversation on this very cold day. Forecasted to be -1C but in practice around +0.5C and with talk of icy roads, it was a relief to find the only ice was on Lawrence’s windscreen in Fowlmere, with the mysterious words ‘Rev was here’ scrawled on it.

Despite the initial cold, 14 hardy Windmillers comprising Maurice, Andrew, Ken, Rod, Roger, Graham, Charles, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Lawrence and Martin turned out to do a CAC ride centred on Fowlmere and taking in Thriplow, Newton, Little Shelford, Ickleton and Chrishall Grange. Some did a variation of this route including Ken and Martin who decided to warm up first with a climb to Elmdon from Ickleton, requiring a strip off of one layer by Martin in Elmdon only to get cold again on the downhill stretch from Crawley End. Others took to the Duxford Grange Road to avoid the Ickleton to Chrishall Grange road which had reports of ice and puddles the day before but regretted having done so due to the aftermath of sugar beet lorries near Duxford Grange.

CAC rides are designed to avoid Windmillers congregating together and obeying the rules, which is generally the case. But for some reason, despite starting from different locations a large number descended on Lawrence’s house, where he was hosting the charity box, at around the same time. Perhaps it was the need to warm up a bit, but some realised it was time to get ‘on yer bike’ whilst others recognised the scale of the traffic jam and sensibly cycled on. At least Lawrence wasn’t there, which helped a bit.

The weather improved considerably after 11.00am, the sun emerged and most arrived home as warm as toast, if not warmer.

This was not a day for taking photos it seems, due to numb fingers. But Simon rode the same route the day before and has contributed the artistic masterpiece above (he has a great love of rusty old iron) and this one below, spotted somewhere en route:

Thanks to Simon for this week’s pics.

And this is where most went:

An item of sad news was heard concerning Roger’s wife who was bitten badly by a dog over the Christmas period resulting in a trip to A&E in Stevenage and then being kept in the hospital for 4 days due to an infection. We wish her a continued recovery from the nasty incident.

Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the route, and to Graham for the evening’s Zoom session.

Martin

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Monday rides

New Year Outing

A goodly number – I reckon it was twelve Windmillers – turned out on the first Monday of 2021 to burn off their Christmas pudding. Riding either solo or in pairs, the roster included: Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Jenni, Martin, Alan, Charles, Nick, Graham, Lawrence, Suzanne and Brian. Apologies if I have overlooked anyone; do let me know.

Maurice had devised a 23 mile circuit – with the charity box and a basket of beers tucked away on his driveway at Heath Farm – an ideal spot for our resident photographer to snap passing Windmillers.

Alan arrives at Heath Farm . . .
. . . then Nick . . .
. . . then . . . who is the mystery man? The fine military bearing, the SAS balaclava and the NAAFI-chic footwear all look familiar. It’s Charles, of course!

Alas, it was much too cold for our photographer to linger longer in the hope of snapping further Windmillers and, saddling up, he was last seen heading up the hill to Barkway.

There was an element of competition in the outing: who could turn in the fastest time on the 7 mile section near Heath Farm? Multiple claims, counter claims and allegations – not to mention dodgy historical data (thanks, Sandra) – appeared on the club’s WhatsApp message board – and I, for one, can’t make head or tail of it. It will all be forwarded to the relevant authorities – British Cycling, WADA, Guinness Book of Records, etc – for validation.

Maurice’s 23 mile, figure of eight route

Thanks as ever to Maurice for devising the route and providing the refreshments – and to Andrew for rousing us all off our sofas.

Brian

PS Lawrence, poor chap, lost his wallet somewhere between Barkway and Barley so, if anyone comes across it, please shout.

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2020. That Was The Year That Was.

That was the year that was

It’s over, let it go

It started way up above par

Finished way below

Remember this opening song by Millicent Martin for David Frost’s weekly satirical programme? (Apologies, BBC, for substituting Year for Week). It seems to sum up what we have endured in 2020.

But it did start well, didn’t it? Except for Brian who had two punctures, one in each wheel, on the first ride on 2nd January. There was also speculation that day as to what might lie in the year ahead – would Deborah buy some mudguards, would Andrew stop banging on about Schwalbe Marathons? Harmless stuff like that but no mention of what would hit the world later that month when the Corona virus started to spread in China, Italy and Austrian ski resorts. On 6th January, Rod had a nasty fall on a slippery road resulting in a cracked helmet and a bent bike but Sandra came to his rescue in her van and scooped him up. He was a bit bruised but luckily nothing else was broken. Brian’s birthday was celebrated on the 24th at The Black Bull in Balsham and on the 30th nine Windmillers inspected Nigel’s immaculate motorbike workshop and stuffed themselves silly on Sue’s buttered tea loaf and shortbread.

Nigel’s immaculate workshop

On 6th February we had a great turnout, as above, for a ride to Wimpole on a beautiful day. But it wasn’t long afterwards that storms Ciara and Dennis resulted in cancelled rides and the formation of the Windmill Dining Club to ensure we kept our local publicans happy.

It remained very wet, which was just a precursor of the real storm that was about to hit us hard, the dreaded Corona virus. By 12th March the virus was spreading rapidly, people were dying, stock markets were crashing, unemployment was rising, Andrew was self-isolating after an abandoned ski trip to Italy, and all this when we were meant to be celebrating Maurice’s birthday! But we carried on, not really knowing what was in store, and enjoyed a lovely Springwatch ride with Sandra on 16th March when her eagle eye spotted a barn owl, a large herd of deer including some Albinos and, God forbid, a strange looking hi-viz clad person ahead of us standing on a bank and coughing furiously. It turned out to be Andrew taking some exercise during his self isolation and so we gave him a wide berth.

And then on 19th March the bombshell hit us. No more rides! Hibernation time for The Windmill Club! Deaths galore! Panic buying! The end is nigh! Suddenly, we had to adapt, quickly, if we were to remain sane. Owing to the club being affiliated to Cycling UK, the first thing was to stop organising group rides. But exercise outdoors was allowed and so Windmillers continued to ride individually and occasionally we bumped into each other. This happened with increasing frequency which led to the idea of creating a circuit and inviting members to join the circuit near to where they lived, some going clockwise and some anti-clockwise. This was quite legitimate under the Government’s rules and thus heralded what became known as CAC rides which continue to this day. The first one took place on 1 April and resulted in £80 being raised for the charities we support and a stop for refreshments at the end of Maurice’s long driveway, plus the recording of times for the circuit, suitably judged by Howard. The fastest time was set by Graham who did the circuit in 1 hour 49 minutes and 15 seconds.

The Windmill Club did indeed go into hibernation. The WhatsApp group name was changed to Cycle Mates and it was soon swamped with Corona virus jokes and stories like this:

And this from yours truly to encourage members to wash their hands:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Hrouto2t6sBbRi2c7

Blogs also stopped as we had to show that we were obeying all the rules but unofficial CAC rides took off big time and money poured into the charity box which was hosted at various places throughout April – £93 on the 9th, when Graham was first again, £95 on the 16th, £153 on the 23rd and £85 on the 30th, making a grand total of £984 by the end of April.

During April, Brian started a wonderful series of Windmillers of the Day which included Andrew, Vernon, Sandra, Charles, Keith, Deborah, Chris, John, Lawrence, Ken, Howard, Roger, Geoff, Tom, Graham, Simon, Rod, Nigel, myself and Maurice, before he ran out of photographs from previous blogs. Finally, Brian was created Windmiller of the Day by Andrew. Here’s the gang:

May rides continued in CAC style, with the magnificent sum of £170 being raised on 14 May, when toy windmills were also distributed for attachment to bikes so that Windmillers could be recognised amongst the hoards of other cyclists on the roads. On 26 May, Graham decided to climb the hills around Ickleton in one day enough times to at least equal the 1,600 metres he would have climbed had he been allowed to climb Mont Ventoux that day. In the event he climbed the equivlent of a trip from the seaside to Avoriaz at 1,810 metres! Well done, Graham.

June saw the easing of restrictions at long last and groups of 6 were allowed to cycle together. The blog re-emerged on 1st June when Simon described a rock hard off road route devised by Andrew after a month of no rain which shook 6 Windmillers and their bikes to bits, including Rod falling off in the last half mile, luckily only slightly battered. By 25 June, it was really blazing as 19 Windmillers descended on Wimpole Hall for coffee, all at different times and socially distanced of course.

Socially distanced on 25 June at Wimpole Hall

June also saw the creation by Brian of an easier to remember URL for the blog- http://www.thewindmillclub.org . Is this the reason for a massive increase in visitors and views from many more countries this year?

July started with a memorial ride for Victor’s wife, Rose, who sadly passed away a few weeks back. This created an opportunity to have a special fund raising day resulting in a club record of £440 which Maurice proposed topping up to £500 from club funds and making a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care. It was then topped up by a further £100 from Victor making a grand sum of £600. The day was notable also for a summer footwear parade, Charles winning narrowly in his fancy shoes and socks from Suzanne in her shocking pink / rich plum trainers.

First prize: Charles in his Hickeys

Thoughts of croissants, coffee and Calvados started on Rod’s birthday ride on 10 July as three of the French contingent, Andrew, Simon and I, had a warm up ride with 9 other Windmillers before a socially distanced lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. But Andrew and Simon couldn’t resist really getting in the mood:

Simon and Andrew practising singing the Marseilleaise

So it was early on 13 July that Andrew, Simon, Lawrence and I departed in 2 cars plus bikes for Newhaven, having had to make last minute changes to our itinerary due to our ferry to St Malo being cancelled. But all went well, we had good weather throughout and stayed and ate at some nice places, demolishing platters of seafood at every opportunity. Andrew was our guide for the Normandy beach tour and we also stopped to pay our respects at the memorial to our Windmill friend Kell Ryan, who was well known in the area.

The fine weather continued throughout July and into August when rides were still allowed in groups of up to six people, making it seem almost like the old days and being able to go further afield too, to places like West Stow, Long Melford and Lavenham. Rain and thunderstorms at last arrived to water the garden, and Windmillers, but that didn’t stop Windmillers from venturing out. The rain is at least warm in August.

Sheltering in Stambourne

September got off to a bad start on the 3rd for Andrew having had a puncture and a hornet attack him on the same day whilst on a ride around Stevenage. But the highlight of the day was the arrival at The Rising Sun in Halls Green of Vernon and his wife Moira for lunch, Vernon having introduced as to The Rising Sun a few years back. He was in good form but not fit enough for a ride. He had however been playing a mean round of golf in previous weeks, to which I can testify.

Andrew, deflated on 3rd September but not yet stung

With the holiday period over, rides got going with a vengeance during the remainder of September. On the 10th, after a pleasant ride from the hamlet of Fuller Street, down to Heyford Basin and Maldon, Mike suddenly lurched to his feet during lunch with a swelling the size of a rugby ball in one of his legs. 999 or rush him immediately to hospital in Chelmsford? The latter course of action was considered to be much quicker given the pressure on the NHS and Deborah offered to do just that. He was soon attended to and discharged later that day, just as well as he was on a climbing expedition in France the following week!

Valentines’ Day re-emerged 7 months late on 14th September when Deborah jumped off her bike on a warm sunny evening and dived into a field of glorious wild flowers.

Deborah, the flower power girl

A week later it was Maurice’s turn to pick flowers for Lynn but some Windmillers got a bit worried about this show of affection for me and vice versa:

There’s no truth in this romance, honest guv’.

What started as a bad month for Andrew ended as one too when he developed a bad case of food poisoning which laid him low for a couple of weeks. He reported having lost 10 pounds quite quickly which, as Simon quipped, was quite a lot of money for a Scotsman to lose! So we missed his cheerful company whilst a wet and stormy end to September heralded a more restrictive October, following much the same pattern as earlier in the year. Eureka moment! Storms = surge in cases of corona virus. Banish storms! Banish the virus! Your views, please, Prof Simon.

The really sad news at the end of September was that our good friend and colleague Vernon Gamon died on the 27th, less than a month after joining us for lunch at The Rising Sun and after a long and courageous battle with liver cancer. He was upbeat and stoic right to the end, even to the extent of buying himself a new car in recent weeks. Ken and I were proud to represent The Windmill Club and the Gog Magog Golf Club at his funeral on 12th October at a natural burial site in deepest Leicestershire.

Vernon Gamon, much loved and sorely missed

Vernon never forgave me for padlocking my bike to his in Steeple Bumpstead on my first outing with The Windmill Club and forgetting to bring the key. ‘What a plonker’, I heard him say. ‘Whoever invited this nutcase?’

Simon’s October got off to a bad start on the 1st with a major error of route on the return leg of Ken’s ride to Graffham Water when he opted to explore the dual carriageway of the A1 north of Buckden followed by a zig zag route to avoid the new A14 whilst navigating back to base at The White Swan at Conington, by which time lunch was over. He’s been singing the 1961 Dion hit They call me the wanderer ever since. To make matters worse his car would not start but a helpful lady produced some jump leads which did the trick.

The wanderer returns

Covid-19 cases started to rise again by mid-October which meant The Windmill Club had to get creative again to cope with the popularity of our rides. So on the 15th Geoff and Brian came up with the idea of 3 groups of 6, one of which would use The Three Hills at Bartlow as their base whilst the other two used The Black Bull at Balsham, but all doing the same route in different directions. This worked out well except for a few unrelated hiccups such as Rod having a glancing blow collision with a big lorry on the way to the start and Lawrence having an involuntary dismount at a busy road junction. It also rained hard on one group just as they recognised the lone figure of John Bagrie heading in the opposite direction. It was great to see John again and to have him join us for lunch.

Deborah very kindly provided vast quantities of mushrooms and apples on the 19th on a ride when Maurice was determined to show off on his e-bike leaving others trailing behind who then took a different route, but all met up eventually at The Red Cow and enjoyed a pint outside. On the 22nd there were punctures galore, Martin’s being particularly time consuming and expensive to repair but not as expensive as Maurice’s puncture on his car.

Punctures and pit crews galore on 22 October

Lockdown recommenced on 2 November which meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for the 5th, which will now be held at a future date. Instead, CAC rides came to the rescue with Windmillers allowed to cycle singly or in pairs. And the lovely early November weather made it seem more bearable, although we felt sorry for the farmers who had no market for pumpkins this year:

Pumpkins, pumpkins, lovely pumpkins. Make me an offer!

Autumnwatch rides were a treat for the naturists, sorry naturalists, amongst us, the highlight being 10 red kites seen circling together by Jenni and Deborah in Anstey on 20 November. Large herds of deer were also spotted amongst the splendid autumn colours:

Autumn in all its glory on 12 November

But by the end of November it was pretty cold, wet, murky and muddy. Brian had a bad day on the 19th having to endure wet weather, a puncture and a bad back all at the same time and the conditions had a strange effect on Simon who, cycling alone at the time, decided to compose the first of an anthology of poems about pigeons. Here it is which could perhaps be set to music and sung in a punk style:

There were eight pigeons on that wire

In spring they ate all my apple-tree buds

Some birds I ‘ate because they are destructive (and don’t sing)

As a convicted multiple murderer of pigeons

Unrepentant, I will scratch on my cell wall

I ‘ate, the eight fat pigeons I ‘ate

And I don’t care

Keep ’em coming Simon!

In the absence of our traditional Christmas lunch when Maurice announces the distribution of the money we have raised for various charities, 26th November became the focus for this year’s announcement. And what a phenomenal amount we have managed to raise – £4,737 as at 26 November which was generously topped up by Maurice by a further £300 to make a grand total of £5,037. The distribution was as follows:

Marie Curie Cancer Appeal: £500, in memory of Rose Humberstone

Arthur Rank Hospice: £500, in memory of Victor

East Anglia Childrens’ Hospice: £1,000

Eve Cancer Appeal: £1,000

The Samaritans: £1,000, in recognition of the amazing work that Deborah does for this charity

Pets as Therapy: £500, in recognition of the work that Charles and Fiona do for this charity with their dogs

Addenbrookes Charitable Trust: £150

Deborah and Charles receiving their cheques from Maurice on 26th November

December started very cold, wet and windy as three intrepid Windmillers, Alan, Mike and Graham, found to their cost on 3rd December. Most Windmillers decided wisely to buff their candlesticks instead and check that their Christmas lights were still working.

The three musketeers, Mike, Graham and Alan sheltering under Simon’s umbrella. No need for a fridge for the beers.

Flooded roads, low temperatures, mud, murk and punctures were now de rigueur for the rest of December. The 10th marked a striking contrast between the haves and the have nots amongst Windmillers. The haves, including Graham, Mike, Geoff, Deborah and Ken smirked contentedly inside the warmth of Poppy’s Barn as they tucked into their coffees, cakes and, in Deborah’s case, a full English breakfast, whilst the have nots comprising Brian, Lawrence, Simon, Victor and myself were forced to sit outside in the freezing cold and wait ages for their coffee whilst also being told off at regular intervals by the smartly dressed waitress for leaving our bikes and items of clothing in the wrong places. Whipped cream coffee was strangely not on the menu.

The have nots at Poppy’s Barn

The 10th was also notable for punctures of all kinds. Gallant Howard firstly came to the assistance of an Ugley lady (actually, she was rather nice!) whose car had got a puncture but after half an hour of trying with only a can of sealant to do the job, he had to give up and the lady was left calling her son. Subsequent Windmillers offered help too and she said what a nice bunch we were! Then both Victor and Brian had punctures on their return leg home, Victor just managing to get there whilst a near-frozen Brian was whisked up by me and returned home by car.

The Christmas spirit was already flowing at Maurice’s on 14 December when Windmillers appeared at suitably spaced intervals to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine. And yet another puncture happened when Suzanne picked up a difficult to locate thorn which required her chief mechanic Graham to diligently find and repair.

The final ride of the year took place on 17th December on a nice sunny day but still with wet and muddy roads at times. Another £100 was raised which will go into the 2021 pot for distribution.

Two groups cycling in opposite directions meeting amongst the puddles near Farnham

Thanks galore are due to Maurice and Andrew for all their planning and organisation during the year and to those who hosted the charity box and provided refreshments whilst our CAC rides took place. Thanks also to fellow bloggers Brian, Simon and Graham. But, above all, we should thank every member for participating and being so generous during what has been one of the most challenging of years. We have managed to stay safe and healthy whilst at the same time having fun and raising a substantial amount for our chosen charities. WELL DONE ALL!

And now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the summary and prizegiving!

The longest distance prize

First prize Graham with an astonishing 13,458km. Second Rod – 3,256 miles. Third Andrew – 3,049 miles. Fourth Brian – 3, 040 miles (beaten by Andrew by just 9 miles)

The puncture prize

One each recorded by Maurice, Andrew, Martin, Deborah, Alan, Roger, Victor and Suzanne

Four recorded by Brian (yes four!) and so the prize goes equally to him and to Martin, who caused the most loss of time and cost on 22nd October – two exploding tubes, one exploding pump and two discharged CO2 cylinders.

The e-bike breakdown prize

When they go wrong, e-bikes are not the easiest of bikes to repair. Maurice’s gave up the ghost on 5 March, Geoff had problems with his gear control and Rod waited several weeks for a wheel repair before finally getting it sorted by a local chap. The prize goes to Rod.

The involuntary dismount prize

Unfortunately, there were several involuntary dismounts involving Rod on 6th January and again on 1st June, Graham on 5th July, Roger and Alan both on 16th July, Lindsay in March, Lawrence on 15th October and Charles on 26th November. The prize goes to Graham for a particularly spectacular fall on a gravelly junction, witnessed only by himself, which put him out of action for a while.

The dodgy bike prize

Bits fell off Simon’s bike on 23rd July, Andrew’s filthy chain again needed mending due to a dodgy link and Lawrence’s rear disc brake needed repairing on a trip to Aldeburgh. Andrew has won it several times in the past and so this year the prize goes to Simon.

The dodgy car prize

Having had a dodgy battery on two occasions, needing jump cables from Andrew in Upper Langley and also from a helpful lady in The White Swan at Conington, there is only one candidate for this prize. It also goes to Simon.

The getting lost prize

Maurice took a wrong turning on 10th September but found a £20 note whilst doing a U-turn, and then got properly lost towards the end of the ride when he and Howard strayed off route, Lindsay got lost on 21st September, Deborah couldn’t even find the start on 1st October having got lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire, but Simon got lost on 15th June and then again, big time (see above) on 1st October. So the prize goes to Simon. Well done – a hatrick!

The Good Samaritan prize

Sandra came to the rescue of Rod on 6th January, Victor and Brian helped another cyclist on 12th November, Howard came to the aid of a damsel in distress with a puncture in a wheel of her car (see above) but Deborah is the clear winner because of the amazing work she does for The Samaritans (often appearing for a ride with blurry eyes having done a night shift) and for rushing Mike to hospital in Chelmsford on 1st October.

The Mucky Pup prize

This goes to Roger for spoiling his smart new jacket on 13th February, closely followed by Andrew in second place. Roger wins a framed print of this pic:

The Springwatch / Autumnwatch prize

Alan spotted a fine looking stag on 26th October, Ken / Martin spotted a large herd of deer on 5th November (but there were probably countless other sightings not recorded) and Jenni / Deborah witnessed 10 Red Kites circling over Anstey – a fine display. Sandra’s spot of the barn owl in March was awesome but the prize goes to Jenni / Deborah jointly.

The longest ride to the start prize

Graham, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Geoff and Suzanne all have long rides to the start points, unless they use their cars of course. The prize goes to Brian.

The road rage prize

We try to be courteous to motorists at all times but the opposite does not always apply. Andrew had a run-in with a Volvo driver in Long Melford on 6th August and also with an angry lady in Upper Langley who asked him, not very politely, to not park outside her house. Rod also had an incident when riding his e-bike. The prize goes to Andrew who handles such situations very diplomatically.

The dapper dresser prize

No competition this year. Who could compete with Charles with his snazzy stripey socks, fancy shoes and Christmas jumper? The prize goes to Charles.

The poet of the year prize

No competition. The outright winner is Simon.

The Zoom prize

Again, no competition. The winner is Graham who we should thank heartily for setting up many post-ride Zoom meetings throughout the year

Other facts and figures

Prior to lockdown, birthdays were celebrated for Brian, Victor, Martin and Maurice. Thereafter we celebrated Rod’s on 10th July, Deborah’s on 16th July, Howard’s on 23rd July, Charles’s on 6th August and Lawrence’s on 26th November.

Blog stats

Despite the smaller number of blogs this year the number of visitors and views of http://www.thewindmillclub.org more than doubled over 2019

2019 2020

Views 1437 2996

Visitors 617 1312

No. of posts 72 63

Illnesses and ailments

John Bagrie had a hip operation early in the year from which he made a rapid recovery and was soon walking / cycling, including a week’s walking in the Lake District with Ken and Lawrence in early September.

Simon had a hernia operation from which he also recovered quickly, although it was somewhat worrying on one of his first rides to Ware that he reported having one black one and one white one. He’s in the pink now, that’s for sure.

Keith had an operation on his neck which had been giving him trouble for some time. We hope to see him out and about with us soon.

Andrew got stung badly by a hornet on 3rd September and had a nasty bout of food poisoning later that month but recovered well from both.

Mike was rushed to hospital in Chelmsford by Deborah on 10th September with a large leg swelling caused by a pedal bursting a blood vessel. He was released later in the day and was climbing mountains in France the following week.

Death

On this sombre final note, we lost one of best loved members, Vernon Gamon. RIP.

THE END

Martin

PS. If there are any errors or omissions they are all my fault. Let me know if anthing needs to be put right.

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17 December. CAC ride from Chrishall. 30 miles.

Charles’s house in Chrishall was the focal point for this last CAC ride on a Thursday before Christmas, and what a treat there was in store for the Windmillers who took part. The sun shone, the birds sang and everything seemed right in the world, except for Covid-19 and Brexit of course but we could at least forget those for a few pleasurable hours in the saddle.

Feeling a bit idle, Martin took his car to Chrishall overtaking Brian and Ken on the way and egging them on with shouts of ‘Allez allez’ through his open window. Many others rode to their start point too, putting Martin (and Simon) to shame. Rod also drove to Chrishall but was let off as he had much longer to get to the circuit and also was still without his e-bike. Brian had started from Great Shelford, Ric from Harston, Howard, Geoff, Deborah and Jenni from Saffron Walden, whilst Graham and Mike did their own thing and took a roundabout route from Ickleton via Newton and also managed a trip to Poppy’s Barn again. The prize for the furthest distance of the day probably goes to Brian.

In addition to the aforementioned, Maurice, Andrew, Roger and Alan also took part making 17 in all, a fantastic turnout. Here is the route taken:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5189260

With groups of up to six allowed under the regulations in force on the day, this enabled several small groups to ride together or to join up with others en route. Rod, Simon, Ken and Martin set off together in an AC direction and it wasn’t long before the familiar figure of Ric caught them up on the climb to Duddenhoe End. It was good to see him out again and to hear about what was going on in his garden.

Simon, Rod, Ric and Ken in Brent Pelham

After all the rain in recent days, the roads were inevitably wet and muddy, nowhere more so than between Albury and Farnham, and perhaps Violets Lane as well near Brent Pelham, but Rod’s group chickened out and decided not to even attempt Violets Lane which is notorious for mud and water at this time of year. Ken peeled off towards Clavering and home at that stage leaving the remaining four to continue their journey.

But the sun more than made up for the wet roads. It was just glorious and provided great opportunities for Simon to get creative once again with his photography.

Agricultural junk appeals to Simon. This collection and that in the photo above is near Farnham.
Spiralling ivy disguises the silhouettes of some of these trees

Rounding a corner near Farnham two groups of Windmillers suddenly met and stopped for a socially distanced chat across the road:

A socially distanced lake between Martin , Jenni and Deborah
Brian, Howard, Rod, Simon and Ric amongst the puddles

Saying farewell to the other group, Rod’s group started to debate where coffee might be had. The Three Horseshoes at Hazel End looked dead to the world, The Yew Tree in Manuden likewise but thoughts then turned to The Cricketers in Rickling Green and hey presto, the lights were on and we received a very warm and efficient welcome as we ordered coffee for all and large slices of cake for Rod and Simon. Sitting outside was pleasantly dry and quite warm in the sun.

Ric snacking at the Rickling Cricketers. Try saying that after a few pints.
Simon doing the Windmill salute, with the heavy mob on guard.

Arriving back at Charles’s, Rod’s group realised they had not seen many other riders – perhaps most were going in the same direction or was it because of stopping at The Cricketers? Deborah and Jenni were just departing and so the great display of puppy bonding by Deborah was sadly missed, but here’s a pic of the happy occasion:

Deborah bonding with her new puppy – lucky girl! Envy all round

The magnificent sum of £100 was raised for our charity fund.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route, Andrew for his organisation, Charles for hosting the charity box and providing beers, refreshments and biscuits (much appreciated) and Graham for hosting the evening’s Zoom session. A good time was had by all.

Martin

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14 December. MMMM- Mince pies and Mulled wine at Maurice’s on Monday

An invitation from Maurice to munch mince pies and wash them down with mulled wine was warmly welcomed by nine Windmillers who stopped off at his house in small groups to enjoy his and Lynn’s kind hospitality. The pies and saucepans of wine kept coming in vast quantities.

Using a CAC route which took in Chrishall, Duddenhoe End, the Langleys, Meesden, Anstey, Barkway, Barley and Great Chishill, enabled Andrew, Charles, Alan, Rod, Nick, Simon, Graham, Suzanne and Martin to call in at steady intervals and to socially distance whilst there. Deborah was hoping to come too but had to pull out due to other commitments, including puppy love.

This is where we went:

https://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_5188552

But not all went well at the start for Suzanne. Riding over from Abington and joining up with Graham and Martin in Ickleton, it wasn’t long before she suffered a puncture on the way to Elmdon and with just one tube available the chief mechanic, Graham, had to ensure that it was right first time. So the cause of the puncture required much forensic examination and it took some time and effort, not to mention the effort required to even detach the rear wheel, before a sliver of flint was discovered that had just penetrated the casing. Blowing the tyre up with a CO2 canister then blew the outer casing off the rim and so it was back to square one and a hand pump was used. Whilst all this was going on, Martin called Andrew to say we might be a wee bit late, Suzanne messaged him likewise and so once we got going again the best bet seemed to be to head direct to Maurice’s and get to the pies and the mulled wine before the others arrived.

Maurice had gone directly from Great Chishill to his house to greet the first visitors, who turned out to be Alan, Rod, Nick and Simon but they had all gone by the time Graham, Suzanne and Martin arrived, Alan reporting subsequently that he had beaten Maurice’s record of climbing from his house to the Barkway radio tower in time of just 9 over minutes or so. Well done Alan – let us know the exact time!

Luckily there were still some pies and wine left. Graham made a quick inspection of Maurice’s immaculate workshop and just as he, Suzanne and Martin were leaving, Andrew and Charles arrived having been circling clockwise. Charles looked particularly festive in his Christmas jumper which blended well with the Christmas decorations that Lynn had put up outside – see above. On the other hand, Martin looked somewhat garish in his new lemon yellow winter jacket from Decathlon.

Garish, or just plain lurid? Maurice can’t quite decide.

Suzanne had a flu jab appointment later on in Sawston and so the combination of the puncture delay and a couple of helpings of mince pies and mulled wine (by Graham and Martin, not Suzanne) chief mechanic Graham and his deputy decided to accompany Suzanne back via Barkway, Great Chishill and Duxford to ensure the jab was delivered in time.

This is the time of year when contrasts are made with previous years. This is how it was on 14 December 2017:

Thanks, Maurice and Lynn, for the delicious mince pies and mulled wine and it was great to hear that we raised a further £80 for the charities we support. Let’s hope that December 2021 will see a return to real festivities!

Martin