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26 October. A rutting good CAC ride. 20 miles.

Once again, it was The Red Cow at Chrishall for the meeting place on this autumnal Monday ride. Is it the convenient location, is it the cosy interior now that the evenings are getting chilly or is it the fish and chip van in the pub’s car park which gets going just as a ride finishes that makes it so popular? Whatever the reason, it resulted in another good turnout of nine Windmillers to enjoy a circuit of local lanes, in two groups, one going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise making this another CAC ride.

With the clocks having just gone back an hour, 3.00pm was pushing our luck a bit for setting off, given that we started at 3.30pm the week before. But the weather made all the difference – a bright, sunny afternoon which lasted for a couple of hours compared to a cloudy end to the previous Monday.

Maurice’s group included Charles, Sandra, Nick and Simon whilst Andrew’s group included Alan, Rod and Martin. As usual, Maurice shot off at high speed on his e-bike, anti-clockwise, leaving the others trailing in his wake whilst Andrew’s group freewheeled merrily down to the Wendens Ambo road before climbing up to Duddenhoe End. This is where we went:

We are used to seeing a wide variety of wild life on our rides but Andrew’s group were thrilled to spot a very large stag near Meesden, thanks to sharp-eyed Alan, strutting his stuff (the stag not Alan) on open fields looking for his next conquest. He was a magnificent beast and was seen again close up the other side of Meesden with a smile on his face. Had he just had a quick rut we wondered? Martin was slow on the draw with his camera and the stag soon galloped off having presumably got a whiff of his next romantic encounter, but this is what he looked like:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is stag-pic.jpg

With decreasing light, Andrew’s group decided not to call in at Maurice’s house but, in any event, whilst rocketing down the long hill from the Barkway ridge we saw the others crawling up in the opposite direction. They still had a long way to go, no doubt due to Maurice’s hospitality, and indeed they returned to The Red Cow some time after Andrew’s group.

The sun was just setting behind the Great Chishill windmill as Andrew’s group climbed up to the village, which enabled the featured photo above to be taken. Of all the windmills we pass on our travels this one seems to have a majestic beauty about it.

Portions of chips with spicy mayo and tomato sauce washed down with a pint of Wherry proved to be a very good end to a rutting good ride.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the ride.

Martin

P.S. What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idea.

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Suffolk

Punctures Galore!

Martin’s Group . . .

When cycling with Martin we recommend you bring a good book, or maybe the Times crossword, or even Travel Scrabble – anything to while away the hour it can take to mend one of his punctures. Being such a nice chap, everybody wants to help and for each additional helper you can add another 10 minutes. So Martin plus five helpers equals a one hour puncture repair.

Then there’s the collateral damage; this week’s included three new inner tubes (two exploded), one bicycle pump (also exploded), two CO2 cylinders (fully discharged), not to mention minor injuries (Roger’s finger, bent but not quite broken).

That aside, we enjoyed a delightful ride, Martin leading Geoff, Roger, Charles, Victor and Brian around a 30-odd mile loop from the Packhorse, Moulton to Maglia Rosso and back. Lunch – a little later than usual – was excellent and over a beer or two we swapped stories of Martin’s memorable mendings; the most notable of which include the one outside the Blackwall Tunnel and the one at the vicarage in Comberton. Check them out.

Of Graham’s group, Simon reports . . .

Bike rides are a bit like life. First comes the easy bit when you glide along thinking it’s all going well. What you haven’t noticed of course is that the wind has been behind you.

Out we went through Upper Green and Little Saxham to the bike shop and café at Hawstead Green – Simon, Mike, Deborah and Jenni – ably shepherded by Graham. The weather, in particular the westerly tail wind, was kind to us, apart from a brief hailstorm that forced us to shelter for a few minutes under a tree.

Funny how you don’t notice the wind until you turn and it is blowing in your face. Just like that stage of life when you are building a career and raising a family, you have to keep going. We pedalled on, legs aching, struggling to make headway, the scenery all a bit of a blur; though I do remember there were some busy roads and intimidating drivers to keep us on our toes.

Then came our mid-life crisis where everyone had to rally round with the sole objective of getting back to the pub on-time. On this occasion Deborah had a puncture after we had ridden past some seasonal hedge cutting.

Deborah and her pit crew

The group came together nicely. We had all the necessary kit but not always the clearest of ideas of how to use it. Still we muddled through and were soon on our way. The descent into Moulton came as a relief and, arriving back at the Pack Horse, we enjoyed a well earned beer.

By next Thursday we may even have the energy to do it all again, with the prospect of more stories, more laughs and finishing with another good lunch and a beer. So here’s to next Thursday. The weather can’t be that bad, can it?

Maurice’s Group . . .

. . . comprising Maurice himself, plus Howard, Ken, Rod, and Alan, had a memorable start, Maurice arriving as he did with a flat car tyre. Rumour has it he has never changed a wheel; “I have people who do that,” he explained. In no time, the Windmillers had his car jacked and the wheel changed in a marginally sub-Formula 1 time. We only hope Martin was watching and learning.

Maurice Clean Hands Warner

Needless to say, we had all enjoyed a great day out and owe a special thanks to Maurice – for selecting a fine route, Andrew – for getting us organised, and of course, Martin, Graham and Maurice (again) for leading us all safely around the circuit. Thanks, guys.

31 miles whichever way you go

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Monday rides

19 October. Mushrooms galore. 21 miles.

Knowing of the typical Windmiller’s love of mushrooms, following the monster specimens found on 15 October, Deborah very kindly offered to go hunting for more and brought a massive box full of field mushrooms collected from a field near Ashdon, the whereabouts of which is a closely guarded secret. The box was soon emptied and conversations then held about the best recipe for mushroom soup. But a bucket full of bramley apples that Deborah also brought along was not so popular and so Martin took the lot and will be enjoying apple pie for the next few months.

A good turnout of 10 Windmillers at The Red Cow in Chrishall on this pleasant autumnal day meant that two groups of five would cycle separately around the lanes, but exactly where was a mystery to those in Maurice’s group A of Rod, Charles, Nick and Martin. As a result, Andrew’s group B of Sandra, Simon, Deborah and Lindsey headed off first in the general direction of Duddenhoe End, followed at a visible distance by the others. Maurice shot up the first hill on his e-bike towards Hamlet Church but took a left towards Arkesden without waiting for the others in the group who, arriving puffing and panting at the same junction, wondered where he had gone. Seeing some hi-viz jackets by Hamlet Church suggested that might be the way to go but having eventually caught them up there was no sign of Maurice. So there was nothing for it but to phone him and arrange a rendezvous at the two windmills, hoping he was not suffering from being lonely. Meanwhile, Group B continued on their merry way.

This is where the lost souls of Group A went:

Maurice’s route took in Arksden and Clavering whereas Group B went anti-clockwise from Langley Upper Green.

Having reconvened, Group A then met Group B at the muddy end of Violet’s Lane, luckily still passable:

Nick peeled off from Group A on the return leg after Brent Pelham and both groups arrived back at the Red Cow at around the same time, where some stayed to enjoy an outside pint and to put the world to rights.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route, even if it did result in a lasoo for most of Group A, and to Andrew for organising us.

Martin

15 October. The ABC of ride organisation. 32 miles.

Oh, the joys of ride organisation in these Covid days! First we had CAC rides, now we have ABC rides but it is not quite as simple as ABC. Planning routes, finding suitable pubs, staying Covid-compliant, organising groups and getting members to the start line on time for a scheduled departure is quite a feat and we have Maurice and Andrew to thank hugely for their efforts on our behalf.

This ride from The Black Bull in Balsham was soon oversubscribed but Windmillers are a creative lot and soon found a solution to the problem by organising a separate group starting and finishing at The Three Hills at Bartlow, thanks to Geoff and Brian putting their heads together. So Groups A and B, comprising 11 riders, did the route clockwise, 15 minutes apart, and Group C went anti-clockwise, making this the first ever ABCAC ride! No doubt more will follow before we are free of the Covid plague.

This is where we went:

Sadly, whilst en route to Balsham, Rod had a collision with a Wincanton lorry being driven fast and dangerously (witnessed separately by Martin) but luckily it was only his wing mirror that got destroyed. It could so easily have been a lot worse. This resulted in a slight delay as Rod went back down the road to try and retrieve bits of the mirror.

Group A, comprising Maestro Maurice, Howard, Mike, Roger, Lawrence and Martin led the way at 9.15am followed by Group B with Deputy Dawg Andrew, Rod, Ken, Victor and Andrew. Group C also left around the same time, judging by the place where Group A met them between Bartlow and the A1307, when we did our best not to mingle – see photo above. Unfortunately for Lawrence, whilst stopping at the junction with the dreaded A1307, he collided with Howard who was waiting patiently to cross and the impact threw Lawrence off his bike sideways to laand on his hip joint. ‘Ouch’, he said, or words to that effect. It wasn’t long before a bruise was surely to emerge and by the end of the ride he was decidely uncomfortable.

Group A’s ride otherwise went well and they were overtaken during their coffee break by Group B who then took a wrong turning allowing A to regain the lead and get back to the Black Bull first in line for a beer, but drenched to the skin due to a downpour during the last few miles, during which they spotted John Bagrie heading in the opposite direction. Much steam was to be seen in front of the roaring fire in the pub.

Here comes the cavalry

Here’s a report from Andrew’s Group B:

Group B 

Faithfully congregated at Balsham with Hot Rod missing a major component from his new Mazda wing mirror having made contact with a Wincanton lorry en route to Balsham 

A quick return visit to the scene of the crime failed Rod’s attempt to recover the wing mirror part .

Five windy millers  Andrew, Rod, Allan , Ken and Victor eventually left on a 32 mile beautifully planned route sculpted by  supremo  route master Maurice 

Only 3 miles into the ride we past Group C going in the opposite direction led by Brian C 

Our ride was mainly uneventful apart from the occasional rain shower ,

The coffee refreshment stop took place at Birdbrook opposite a disused farm 

To our surprise we bumped into Maurice’s Group A who elected to have a late refreshment stop . There was much shouting from Group A instructing Group B not to stop in fear of perhaps catching the dreaded C disease from the Essex contingent.

Approx five miles to the end of the ride we encountered a solo very familiar cyclist heading in the opposite direction- it could only be John Bagrie and it was the man himself.

A slight detour into a main ride saw us back at Balsham for 12.20 ready an eager to tuck into hearty ales and a well prepared lunch.

A good time was had by all.

And here’s Brian’s report:

Andrew’s instructions to Group C were clear and – following last week’s escapades – perfectly understandable: Do not lose Simon! So it was that Geoff, Deborah, Jenni, Brian and Simon set out from The Three Hills, Bartlow, going clockwise and looking forward to seeing our pals in Groups A and B coming the other way. Sure enough, and after less than a few miles, we passed Maurice’s gang, followed some ten minutes later by Andrew’s; both groups glad to see Simon was still with us.

Cheery waves were exchanged and we continued on, pulling over occasionally to admire the autumnal colours and curiosities; notable of which were the field mushrooms, pictured below (with Brian, for a sense of scale).

Not mushroom for these in Brian’s saddlebag. (Ed.)

Mid-way around the circuit, Geoff introduced us to the delights of Tarka’s Café, Baythorne End. Hitherto unknown to the Windmillers, the coffee and cake were excellent. We must return.

The return leg to Bartlow passed uneventfully and we enjoyed a good lunch and a few beers at The Three Hills.

Strong focus on eating and drinking by Group C

———————————————————————-

It was great to have John Bagrie join Groups A & B during lunch and to catch up with him whilst examining archive copies of the Manchester Evening News from the 1970’s in The Black Bull. Nothing much changes – tanks at Heathrow airport and flu epidemics etc etc..

Thanks again to our organisers Maurice and Andrew in achieving the first ever Windmill Club ABCAC ride.

Martin

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Lost and Found

They call me the wanderer,
Yeah, the wanderer,
I roam around, around, around . . .

Lyrics sung by Dion in 1961

Thursday morning saw Ken and Martin ready and waiting to greet Windmillers arriving at The White Swan, Conington. Ken had prepared the route and – with Andrew laid up sick – Martin had taken on the logistics. Seventeen Windmillers were expected and, keeping us Covid safe, Martin had planned for us to gather, ride and take lunch in three groups, separated in time and space. What could possibly go wrong?

A flurry of Whatsapp messages and phone calls later, however, and Martin’s plans lay in tatters. Several Windmillers were stuck in traffic on the M11 and Deborah, distraught on the telephone, was lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire. With cyclists now arriving in dribs and drabs, Martin, thinking fast to avoid chaos, assembled and dispatched groups of six on a first come, first served basis.

Hail Weston welcomes Howard, Charles, Alan and Geoff

Meanwhile Deborah, still orbiting the outer reaches of the county, with Martin’s help was guided in to rendezvous at our refreshment stop – The Wheatsheaf, West Perry – where her spirits were revived with generous helpings of coffee and cake. No group outing for her, though she did at least manage a pleasant ride around Grafham Water, which the rest of us could only glimpse over a hedge.

Socially distanced coffee and cake at The Wheatsheaf, West Perry
Charles and Maurice outside the Wheatsheaf

Near Buckden, those of us following Simon were mortified to see him take a wrong turning on to the busy A1. Yikes! Attempting to call him back, we yelled for all we were worth, but to no avail; there he was pedalling alongside the traffic, seemingly bound for Scotch Corner and all points north.

Maurice on his e-bike, risking electrocution

That was the last we saw of Simon for some time as he embarked on an impromptu 17 mile tour of Brampton, Huntingdon, Godmanchester, the Hemingfords and Fenstanton before finally rejoining us at the White Swan in Conington. Mightily relieved to see him back safe, his arrival was applauded by Windmillers and locals alike. Somewhat pink in the face but otherwise unharmed, he enjoyed a restorative pint though was sadly too late for lunch.

Rod, Ric, Howard and Ken
Maurice, Martin, Lawrence, Graham and Mike
Simon, doing the stray cat strut

Simon, poor chap, suffered a final indignity when his car stubbornly refused to start. Martin, Ken and Lawrence tried pushing it around the car park before enquiring in the pub as to whether anyone might have jump leads. A very helpful Sandra-type lady came to the rescue, positioning her Audi alongside Simon’s Honda and, connecting up the cables, he was soon firing on all four again.

It had been an enjoyable, if eventful, outing – the majority of riders clocking up 35 miles. This week’s high mileage awards went naturally to Simon (42 miles), but also Ric (70 miles) and Graham (88 miles).

We all did the blue route, except Simon, who took the northerly detour marked in red

Thanks are due to Ken for planning the route and Martin for improvising his very own Operation Stack, avoiding chaos on the approaches to Conington, much like the Kent police do for Dover.

Finally, we must pay tribute to our dear friend, Vernon, who sadly passed away this week after a long illness, bravely fought. Our thoughts are with Moira and his family. We will be organising a memorial ride in the next few weeks.

Vernon Gamon, much loved and sorely missed
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28th September. A ride between storms

The weekend had been windy. Branches removed from the trees, with lashing of rain and grey skies. So it was with considerable relief that come Monday and the Windmiller’s ride, the weather had turned to give a lovely autumnal late afternoon, with bright sunshine and little wind. The sun shines on the righteous of course. Seven Windmillers assembled at the Red Cow in Chrishall; Martin, Maurice, Alan, Simon, Charles, Deborah and Nicolas. With the present Covid rules we set off well-spaced and in the fervent hope that the locals can’t count. 

We were determined to do our best to enjoy the ride despite the absence of Andrew, alias Deputy Dawg. Martin reported that Dawg had acquired food poisoning, had lost 10 pounds and was feeling too miserable to ride. We thought that sounded quite plausible, after all, that is quite a lot of money for a Scotsman.

A brief stop for the customary photo. It’s great to get out with friends.

We rode clockwise round this loop.

Mapometer, my saviour during lock-down.

Along the Royston Road and up the hill to Arkesden. At 4.30 the pull of the Axe and Compasses was easily overcome. Our furthest point was Stocking Pelham. Wikipedia tells us that its population was exactly 163 in 2001 and exactly 163 in 2011. My belief is that so little happens they probably put the same documents in for the 2011 census that they had for 2001. This shows an admirable contempt for government form-filling, as one would expect from the wild no-man’s-land that is the Essex-Hertfordshire border. More Pelhams, then on to Lower Langley Green, where the attractions of the Bull were, with some effort, resisted. Down to Duddenhoe End where Nick peeled off and back to Chrishall, losing Charles to the attractions of Chalky Lane. Deborah needed time to do something for her husband’s birthday. The details were mercifully sketchy. Only three Windmillers up for a drink then, the downside of which is that there were only two available for me to scrounge drinks off.

Sitting in warm, post-ride sunshine Simon observed, quite correctly, what fine child-bearing hips the barmaid at the Red Cow has. Only to be told by another club member that they had spotted her first and that he would have to join the back of the que. He felt that this offends against the usual spirit of the Windmill Club, with its all-important emphasis on generosity and sharing.

We thank Maurice for the route and leading. Andrew for coping so well with organising the club in these times of increased rules and restrictions on our cherished freedoms. Members should note that ‘Simon’s Law’ in the new Club Rules, restricting the sharing of nuts and crisps, was studiously observed throughout. All that was shared was our company, something for which were all are truly grateful in these times of government sanctioned isolation.

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21 September. Last of the summer romance. 21 miles.

Was this, the last day of summer in 2020 (if you believe that the Autumn Equinox marks the first day of Autumn), the reason why romance remained in the air for a second Monday running? Not only did Maurice plan the route to ensure that we went by the same field of flowers but he picked some flowers together with Martin and they were then snapped by Deborah and Simon plighting their troth! Very worrying indeed, until it became apparent that both posies of flowers were for their wives and not each other. Gasps of relief all round!

Starting once again from The Red Cow at Chrishall, nine Windmillers set off on a delightful cruise around the lanes, the others being Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Deborah, Nick and also Lindsay who it was a pleasure to see again. It was also great to have Simon rejoin us only a few weeks after his hernia op and to see him charging up hills. This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/79fc91e1b153e08b47b05e5ab86bf3cc

Although this was the last day of summer it didn’t really feel like it – it was very warm, sunny and quite balmy when we got back to The Red Cow. What a good ending to one of the strangest summers ever experienced, and a pleasant contrast to daily news about Covid-19. It wasn’t long, however, before we lost Lindsay who took a right towards Great Chishill at the bottom of the hill from Chrishall, down which the other eight went at high speed, but hubby Andrew and Deborah went back to find her and we all reconvened at Langley Upper Green.

‘Are you receiving me? Over.’ Maurice attempting to trace the missing three Windmillers.

Passing The Bull at Lower Langley, which we haven’t visited for a while, we passed close to Nick’s house and then through to Brent Pelham and down to a gravel strewn, but dry, Violet’s Lane and back up to Washall Green. (Violet’s Lane is generally avoided in the winter as it floods at the bottom end and can be icy.)

Pausing for a breather near Washall Green

At Starlings Green the prolific plum tree was devoid of plums. We were probably just a bit too late although there were suspicions raised that Andrew had got there before us. But then he discovered it last year, so fair enough.

Passing Stickling Green and skirting Clavering, it wasn’t long before we were picking flowers again near Duddenhoe End. This time, Simon and Martin dived in first but Simon took a distinctly scientific approach by getting up close with his camera and listening intently to the sound of buzzing bees, and impressed too at the environmental contribution this farmer was making.

Botanically beautiful pics from Simon.

Meanwhile Martin got picking another bunch of flowers for Deborah, who was a short way back with Lindsay, and was ordered by Rod to get down on one knee to present them. But then he had to dash back to pick a second bunch for Penny, who had very much enjoyed receiving last week’s bunch, whilst Maurice did the same for Lyn.

Andrew and Lindsay took a short cut back to The Red Cow whilst the others returned via Elmdon and we all enjoyed refreshments outside, Lawrence having to leave first as it was bedtime story time by Zoom for one of his grandchildren.

Well done to Simon for getting ride-fit again so quickly and for taking some pics. And thanks to Maurice for planning the romantic route and Andrew for organising us.

Martin

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Braughing

Free ranging half dozens

Would you rather be lost with Maurice or lost with Andrew? That was the tricky decision faced by a dozen Windmillers as we set off from the Golden Fleece on Thursday morning. But the question was academic as Andrew, brooking no dissent, picked two teams of six. We were off! And, in fairness, our worries were groundless; both leaders knew the route very well and neither got us lost.

The A Team: Brian, Rod, Geoff, Andrew, Alan and (behind the camera) Martin
The B Team: Howard, Maurice, Victor, Roger, Simon and (behind the camera) Graham

We had been warned there would be no stopping at a café so, having brought our own refreshments, we found a pleasant spot to sip coffee and munch biscuits in the September sunshine.

The A Team doing a socially distanced Ring a Ring ‘o Roses
Hungry looks from Victor and Howard

Now we all know Martin likes gadgets – more the steampunk kind than electronic – and so, chancing on this fearsome piece of kit in someone’s front garden, he dismounted and took a snap . . .

Allen Scythe

It’s an Allen Scythe – a petrol powered lawn mower to you and me – guaranteed to transform rough pasture into a passable domestic lawn. These were made from 1935 until 1973 and although many are still in regular use they can be dangerous; the clutch system only disengages the wheel drive from the engine, leaving the blades turning. Health and Safety be damned, eh?

Both teams returned safely to the Fleece and enjoyed an excellent lunch served up by Landlord Peter.

31 miles anti-clockwise from Braughing

Thanks as ever to our team leaders, Maurice and Andrew. These are difficult times to plan outings but, week in – week out, you rise to the challenge and get us all organised. It is much appreciated.

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17 September. Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside. 37 miles.

Starting from the Fore Street Pay and Display Car Park in Framlingham (phew, got that mouthful out of the way safely), just down the road from the Crown Hotel where some had congregated for coffee beforehand, two groups of Windmillers set off in the direction of Aldeburgh. Five in each group was the plan but Maurice shot off at speed (such is the acceleration of an e-bike) accompanied in Group A by Ken, Lawrence and Howard whilst Group B was led by Andrew with Deborah, Mike, Alan, Graham and Martin in line astern.

The route was familiar for some, through very quiet and beautiful Suffolk lanes, but it was just as well that Group B had a couple of GPXers with them, Graham and Martin, as Group A went out of sight quite soon. The problem with GPX files, however, is that they are never wrong – the old saying of garbage in, garbage out still applies – with the result that Group B faithfully followed the route but just before Knodishall discovered that it took them down a sandy track, through a farmyard, under the pylons from Sizewell and then back on the tarmac. Group A, meanwhile, were relying on Maurice’s paper map which is never wrong!

This is where we went:

Entering Thorpeness, Group B were surprised to find Group A on the green by the Meare. Were they admiring the group of vintage Rudge motorbikes we wondered? Or was that a Windmiller’s bike upturned and being attended to? It was indeed Lawrence’s rear disc brake that was not working correctly and despite various adjustments it stubbornly refused to cooperate. Nothing for it but press on and have another go over a coffee in Aldeburgh.

Windmilling around in Thorpeness whilst Lawrence’s bike is attended to
Some fine Rudge motorbikes were on disolay. Rudge also made high quality pedal bikes.

The next stop was Aldeburgh for coffee but Group B stopped to admire the Maggi Hambling scallop sculpture on the beach, which created such a hoo-ha amongst the locals when it was first commissioned and installed in 2003, who considered it spoilt a lovely stretch of open beach. But the general view now, certainly amongst Group B, is that it enhances the beach and has withstood both vandalism and gale force winds without flinching.

Martin and Deborah admiring Maggi Hamblin’s scallop sculpture on Aldeburgh beach
The sculpture was set up to commemorate Benjamin Britten and displays a quote from Britten’s Peter Grimes ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’.

Aldeburgh was heaving with visitors and so coffee was not easy to come by. But whilst some were queuing for their lunchtime baps at a baker’s shop Mike came to the rescue and invited everyone for coffee in his spacious garden at his and Pat’s house near the church. And what a glorious place it turned out to be, not to mention coffee worthy of the best barista. And Deborah voted the jam that Mike and Pat produced to accompany her croissant as being 10 out of 10.

Coffee in Mike and Pat’s garden
Work re-commencing on Lawrence’s bike, this time with success

By the time we set off at noon on the downwind leg back to Framlingham, some had already eaten their fresh warm baps whilst the others were looking forward to a picnic lunch at Snape. The route was a Maurice special – a left after Aldeburgh Golf Club and then along a sandy track, a boardwalk through wetlands and a forest path all the way to Snape, with a diversion at the end through a wood and then along the river bank to the Maltings. And with a high tide to greet us, the views were quite stupendous.

Picnicing at Snape

Maurice had worked up a thirst by this time and so he headed off to The Ship at Blaxhall to see if it was open. Indeed it was and so after the picnic the others joined him there and some stayed for a pint whilst others started to make their way back, stopping in Easton on the way to get creative, photographically, with the famous crinkle crankle wall, thought to be to longest in England:

The crinkle crankle wall in Easton. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crinkle_crankle_wall

Maurice, Mike and Martin, energised after a pint, set off some time later and despite a stop to admire the view over a hedge caught the others up as they were leaving the Fore Street car park. Thus ended a fabulous ride.

Thanks go to Maurice for planning the route, even the scenic sandy route at Knodishall, Andrew for organising us, Mike and Pat for their kind hospitality and all the photographers who contributed pics.

Martin

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14 September. Romance in the air. 17 miles.

Valentines’ Day is a long way off but Deborah and Martin looked like they were getting romantic on this lovely summer’s evening when Deborah suddenly jumped off her bike and dived into wild flowers sown at the edge of a field near Duddenhoe End, hotly pursued by Martin. And what a splendid assortment of flowers they were, humming with the sound of bees and insects amongst them – a great example of what environmentally friendly farmers can achieve if they put their minds to it. Well done to the farmer concerned.

The border of flowers surrounding a large field
Deborah the flower girl
Martin being all lovey dovey with a posey of flowers…..
….whilst the others looked on in astonishment at what was going on, Andrew being creased up.

But poor Deborah had a jilted look on her face when Martin said the posey was not for her but for his missus, Penny, who displayed them in the neat little vase above when Martin got home. There were Asters, Marigolds, Anemones and several others that a botanist such as Ric might be able to identify.

All this took place towards the end of a very pleasant ride around the lanes, starting and finishing at The Red Cow in Chrishall. Seven Windmillers set forth – Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Charles, Lawrence, Nick and Martin. Nick had come over from Meesden and so he peeled off at Langley Lower Green whilst the remaining six continued towards Clavering on a very warm and sunny evening – one of the best.

Stopping for a breather in Clavering

Back at The Red Cow it was good to be joined by Simon O and to hear his tales of tractor driving, where it seems there is nothing to do these days but let the GPS steer the tractor whilst the driver reads the Financial Times. He also told us about his grand daughter’s first day at school which resulted in her returning home enquiring about a certain part of the male anatomy. The things they teach kids at such an early age these days!

Enjoying a pint at The Red Cow

This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/c297907e678fb3dac5177bdf84cd00b9

Thanks as always to Maurice for planning the route and to Andrew for his organisation.

Martin

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10 September. Down by the River Blackwater. 35 miles.

What a contrast with almost a year ago when this ride was first planned but then cancelled due to inclement weather. Instead we had almost perfect conditions for a cycle ride – non-stop sunshine after a slightly cool start, little wind and pleasantly warm on the return leg.

Starting from a lovely pub, The Square and Compasses, in Fuller Street, south of Braintree in the midst of quiet Essex lanes, 12 Windmillers set off in two groups, suitably equipped with GPX files on their devices. But Maurice took the wise precaution of bringing along a paper map too which proved to be quite useful towards the end of his ride………….

Group A was led by Martin, who devised the route using mainly National Cycle Network routes, and he was accompanied by Maurice, Charles, Alan, Chris and Mike. Group B was led by Rod and his faithful followers were Andrew, Ken, Deborah, Howard and Geoff (who had a back up GPX just in case). At a couple of points Group A took wrong turnings only to watch Group B wizz past on the correct route – so much for Group A’s ability to follow a GPX route, correction Martin’s ability, who should have known better as he had done a recce of the route a year ago.

Except for a housing estate in Witham the route took us along delightfully quiet and often narrow winding lanes with far reaching views of the Essex countryside, and hills were few and far between. Exiting Witham, where Martin took one of his wrong turnings, resulted in cries of ‘Where’s Maurice?’ once Group A had caught up with Group B. So we waited and waited but then spotted a smiling Maurice approaching us. Why was he smiling so broadly? It soon became clear that the wrong turning proved to be to Maurice’s financial advantage as he spotted a £20 note lying on the ground which he just had to stop and pick up, by which time the traffic lights were against him. But this being deepest Essex, had the note just been printed locally we wondered?

Maurice proudly displaying his £20 note, which he generously offered to donate to our charity funds, if it was legal tender

It wasn’t long before we were heading down towards the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin, a familiar sight for Maurice who used to keep his boat further down the Blackwater at Maylandsea and often sailed it to Heybridge Basin and Maldon. It was low tide and so the view was mainly of black estuary mud rather than black water but gorgeous all the same.

Relaxing on the quay at Heybridge Basin. Some brought coffee with them in case the Tiptree Tea Room was busy but a take-away window produced coffee quickly for others.

The return leg commenced with a trip up the side of the River Chelmer / Blackwater Navigation Canal containing many moored craft including a lifeboat. This consisted of a narrow towpath / bike path / footpath which required careful bike navigation to avoid falling in or knocking a pedestrian in. But both Groups made it safely into Maldon avoiding any roads and ending up on the banks of the muddy Blackwater as it flowed into the estuary. Then it was a short trip down the Blackwater before turning up into the centre of Maldon, an attractive town hosting an excellent brewery, and exiting on the north side for the final miles back through beautiful undulating countryside. Group A found this to be peaceful whilst Group B experienced some road rage from an angry lady driver and a fast moving tractor.

Entering the pretty village of Terling, Martin stopped to admire the view which resulted in Maurice and Howard taking the wrong road out of the village but thanks to Maurice’s paper map they found their way back to the pub without any great delay.

After a warm welcome at the Square and Compasses and an excellent lunch, washed down with thirst quenching JHB from the Oakham Brewery, the main drama of the day suddenly unfolded when Mike staggered to his feet saying he had to find a doctor / hospital quickly. It turned out that his pedal had hit a shin bone which resulted in a broken blood vessel which quickly grew to the size of a tennis ball. Directions were given to the local hospital in Chelmsford but Deborah recognised the pain Mike was in and offered to drive him there. Well done Deborah! A medal for sure at the Christmas lunch. The good news since is that the swelling subsided and that the doc thought there was every chance that Mike would be able to go climbing in the Alps as planned within a couple of days. That’s an extreme Windmiller for you!

This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/2b4bf5a3067a663147bfe1c0a575e4e3

Thanks to all for taking part and to Andrew for getting us to the starting line.

Martin

Categories
Uncategorized

7 September. Where do you take a sick hornet?

To a waspital of course!

So was it a hornet or a wasp that stung Andrew badly last Thursday? We’ll never know but he was clearly not a happy bunny 24 hours after the event.

Nasty sting, but lucky not to have swallowed the horny wasp.

By Monday the swelling had subsided and he was his usual cheery self when out on a 19 mile ride around the lanes with Maurice, Rod, Charles, Alan and Martin:

Happy again.

Starting from The Red Cow at Chrishall at 4.30pm, Maurice led the way around our quiet autumnal lanes taking in Shaftenhoe End, Nuthampstead (giving Bridget a wave as we passed her house), Anstey (giving Andrew a shout), Brent Pelham, Meesden, Langley Upper Green and Duddenhoe End, before enjoying a pint outside on our return, at which point the temperature began to drop quite quickly.

The Red Cow looking splendid
Two vain Windmillers admiring themselves in the mirror inside the porch of The Red Cow (or was Andrew checking his sting?)

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route and Andrew for getting us assembled.

Martin

Categories
Stevenage

Deflated & Stung

It wasn’t Andrew’s day. Not only did he suffer a flat tyre before we had even left the pub car park – but then he was stung on the neck by a wasp. He swears it was a hornet; no doubt it was the size of a Tam O Shanter.

Ready for the off, apart from . . .
. . . Andrew, deflated but not yet stung

Apart from that, it was another excellent ride. Starting from the Rising Sun, Halls Green, Maurice steered us in a wide loop around Stevenage, so wide indeed that – apart from the odd glimpse from afar – the town remained out of sight. The surrounding countryside is hilly – but the roads are quiet and the scenery delightful.

Half way round, we pulled in at Whitwell to visit Emily’s Tea Room, one of our favourite haunts, where we particularly enjoyed the homemade crumpets and jam.

Lovely crumpet at Emily’s Tea Room

For the record, our peloton comprised Maurice, Andrew, Alan, Chris, Roger, Mike, Graham, Charles, Rod, Howard and Brian – and upon returning to the Rising Sun, Simon joined us for lunch. Recovering after his recent surgical procedure he reported he had one black one and one white one. Oo-er, we hope he is in the pink again soon.

And then to cap it all, a lovely surprise – Vernon turned up, accompanied by wife Moira. We hadn’t seen our old pal for a long time so it was particularly good to catch up with him again. Indeed, it was Vernon himself who first introduced us to The Rising Sun three years ago; you can read all about it here.

Looking good, Rod
29 miles clockwise around Stevenage, starting from Halls Green

Thanks, Maurice, for another great outing. Andrew too, ever cheerful in the face of adversity, for getting us all organised.

Categories
Steeple Bumpstead Suffolk

Coffee & cake at Clare

We like the Fox & Hounds at Steeple Bumpstead, not least because Landlady Kate provides coffee and biscuits while we wait for Deborah, who generally arrives just as we are draining our cups.

Refreshed and ready to go, twelve Windmillers attempt to form two equal sized pelotons in conformance with government guidelines*. Only it never quite works out, Maurice heading out with eight riders while Brian musters just four. Maybe some can’t count? Maybe – quite understandably – others fear getting lost with Brian? Or maybe it’s just our Keystone Cops-like inability to get organised. Who knows.

Whatever the reason, all twelve somehow found their way to Clare where we enjoyed some excellent coffee and cake at Platform One, the café in the long-disused railway station.

From Clare we made short work of the return trip to Steeple Bumpstead where Landlady Kate served up a hearty lunch washed down with a restorative ale.

For the record, this week’s riders were: Maurice, Howard, Roger, Deborah, Jenni, Alan, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Charles, Lawrence and Brian – and Ken joined us for lunch.

At Clare station; a map of the long lost Stour Valley line
35 miles clockwise from Steeple Bumpstead

Thanks, Maurice, for organising another terrific outing.

*As of Thursday, 27 August 2020, Cycling UK’s guidance is that groups of up to fifteen can ride provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Read more.

Categories
Sicklesmere Suffolk Uncategorized

Beerless at Lavenham

Socially distanced cycling, eh? Who’d have thought? Whereas our peloton used to be upwards of a dozen strong – a veritable rolling roadblock – we now only venture out in groups of six or less, appropriately spaced. This week it was Maurice leading the first group and Brian the second. Trouble was, Brian didn’t really know the route, relying instead on tail-enders Graham and Rod to shout directions from the rear.

So it was that Maurice, followed by Roger, Ken, Alan and Chris set off from The Rushbrooke Arms, Sicklesmere, heading for Gedding – followed ten minutes later by Brian, Victor, Deborah, Mike, Graham and Rod – Brian making sure he kept within earshot of Graham and Rod.

Sunshine and the beautiful Suffolk countryside ensured a very pleasant outbound ride to Lavenham, where we pulled in for refreshments at The Swan. Most ordered coffee and teacakes – but Graham, who had already cycled the extra 35 miles from home – was desperate to wet his whistle with a pint. Coffee and teacakes were served aplenty but, despite increasingly desperate reminders to the staff, the beer did not materialise and poor old Graham took the saddle just as thirsty as when he arrived.

Returning to Sicklesmere via Bridge Street, Shimpling and Hawstead, we enjoyed an alfresco lunch at the The Rushbrooke Arms where, thankfully, Graham managed to down a few restorative pints ahead of his 35 mile return home, neighbour Mike joining him for the ride.

Thanks, Maurice, for planning the route and leading the way on such a delightful outing.

31 miles clockwise from Sicklesmere
Categories
Steeple Bumpstead

Cowsheds and Lychgates

Thursday morning in Steeple Bumpstead and we were hopeful of a fine morning’s cycling ahead of the thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. But thunder was already heard as we unloaded the bikes and rain followed shortly after. There was nothing for it but to retire to the Fox & Hounds for an early coffee.

Gathering at Steeple Bumpstead

The worst of the downpour passed and we ventured out on the wet roads; the first group – Maurice in the lead followed by Lawrence, Howard, Roger and Simon – followed some five minutes later by the second group comprising Brian, Deborah, Geoff, Graham and Mike.

We had gone barely three miles when the rain came down again, only this time in torrents. Soon the road was awash and we could barely see where we were going. In Stambourne, Maurice’s group sought shelter under the church lych-gate. Old English for corpse-gate, this was the sheltered meeting place where a funeral party would gather and where the priest would receive the shroud-wrapped body and commence the funeral rites.

What better port in a storm for five sodden Windmillers?

Keeping body and soul together under the lych-gate in Stambourne . . .
. . . while it rained stair-rods. Note the outdoor sleeping arrangements peculiar to this part of Suffolk

Meanwhile, Brian’s group, caught out by the deluge on a quiet lane, sought shelter in a cowshed. The cows didn’t seem to mind and neither did the farmer who, turning up to unblock a storm drain and initially startled by the sight of sodden cyclists in her barn, said we were very welcome – but we weren’t to milk the cows.

Cosy in the cowshed

Half an hour later the rain had stopped and we headed out again, skirting the deeper puddles. Ten miles down the road, the sun was shining and we were almost dry again.

Mike, joining us for the first time, was on a fixie – a great way to keep fit as you have to go all out and attack every hill; either that or get off and push, which doesn’t look cool. Mike crested every hill with ease; we were impressed.

Given all the delays, there was no time for our usual coffee stop in Finchingfield as we were expected back at the Fox & Hounds for lunch. Instead we sailed on through the picturesque village and out past the windmill, heading for Cornish Hall End and the final leg back to Steeple Bumpstead.

Enjoying a beer at the pub, we were glad to report no punctures, no broken chains, no e-bike breakdowns, no disputing the highway code with wayward drivers – and nobody had fallen off. A triumph!

Thanks, Maurice for another great outing – and a belated Happy Birthday to Roger, who bought the beers.

28 miles clockwise from Steeple Bumpstead
Categories
Suffolk

6 August 2020: Events, dear boy, events

After such an eventful ride it was a relief to get back to the cars and relax with a picnic.

The day had started badly for Rod when the e-part of his e-bike failed, rendering it a p-bike (go figure). Even with the battery removed, pedalling an electric bike can be challenging, they are anything but lightweight. Rod had a tough day’s riding ahead.

Holy Innocents Church, Lamarsh

Then there was Andrew’s chain. Half way into the ride and pulling up for a comfort break, he noticed a semi-detached link; clearly, an accident waiting to happen. There was nothing for it but to up-end the bike and effect a repair. His usual bike mechanic, Tom Robinson, being unavailable, it fell to Andrew to do his own dirty work; and his was a truly filthy chain, mired in the accumulated muck of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Normandy and Brittany.

With assistance from Maurice, tools from Brian and much effing and jeffing from Andrew himself, the chain was eventually made whole again, albeit a little shorter than before.

Andrew repairs his chain while Charles engages with local dog walker
Andrew and his pit crew

Meanwhile the rest of us used the time to take on water, munch snacks and generally loll about. Charles took great interest in a passing canine, evidently some sort of rare breed, engaging the lady owner in small talk. She seemed quite taken with his stripey hose.

The harvest is in full swing

A mere 45 minutes or so later and we were underway once more. Strung out over half a mile, our peloton was steadily overtaken by an energetic female rider. Maurice on his e-bike was comfortably able to keep up with Carol (as we subsequently learned her name was) and struck up a conversation. Hearing we could do with a coffee, Carol very kindly led us to The Anchor, her local in Stoke-by-Nayland. Unfortunately the landlord refused to contemplate opening up half an hour early. Nonetheless, we thanked Carol, for her solicitude and, bidding her farewell, continued on to Kersey, surely one of the prettiest of Suffolk villages, where we were delighted to find The Bell open and welcoming.

Sod the coffee, let’s have a real drink – seemed to be the general feeling as we formed a socially distanced queue at the bar – and Rod, now looking distinctly red in the face, expressed strong approval. What’s more, having missed celebrating his birthday during lockdown, Charles insisted on buying the beers. Thank you, Charles, and a belated very happy birthday to you.

Refreshments at The Bell Inn, Kersey

It would be nice to report that the rest of the outing passed uneventfully; but that wasn’t to be. We were on the last mile and approaching Long Melford when Andrew was overtaken dangerously by a Volvo estate; indeed, not just cut-up but yelled at by the driver. Catching up with the Volvo at a junction, strong opinions were exchanged on both sides before we all went our separate ways. If only that had been the end of it.

Arriving back at the cars and setting out our chairs, tables and picnic, we sat down to enjoy the fine prospect across Long Melford green. Rod, in particular, was very relieved to get back and set about his sandwiches with great gusto. Quite how he had managed to keep up with us over 34 miles, we will never know; but somehow he did. Well done, Rod, that was quite a workout.

Simon looking dapper in his Panama

Alas, the pleasant ambience of our picnic spot was disturbed when the Volvo driver reappeared, driving across the green and pulling up alongside us to complain about her car being scratched. Andrew, remaining impressively calm and businesslike, thought it best to de-escalate things by exchanging details. After all, this is what our club insurance with Cycling UK is for and – thankfully – the heat was taken out of the encounter. Well done, Andrew, for handling things in such a business-like manner.

For the record, the 34 miles was completed in two socially distanced groups: Maurice leading Brian, Ken, Chris, Simon and Graham, followed five minutes later by Andrew leading Lawrence, Charles and Rod.

Thanks, Maurice and Andrew, for organising things and leading the two groups.

34 miles anticlockwise from Long Melford
What’s this in Andrew’s car? A pink horsewhip? Sometimes it’s best not to ask.
Categories
Uncategorized

3 August. Hermit crab on the loose. 18 miles.

Ah ha. Now those look like they would make me a nice house in which to live….
But will this one fit me? I’ll give it a try.
Yes! It fits like a dream.
I’m as happy as a hermit crab can be in a corn field.

And so it was on this pleasant afternoon in early August that seven Windmillers led by Maurice and accompanied by Andrew, Rod, Simon, Charles, Alan and Martin came across the same field in Clavering that we saw a year or so ago. The wheat had just been cut with an old fashioned binder so that the straw could be used for thatching, but the drying stooks looked irresistible to Simon who suddenly came over with a huge desire to be a hermit crab, so in he climbed. He might have just fancied a new hair-do but either way he semed very pleased with the result.

The ride had started at The Red Cow in Chrishall and took in familiar quiet lanes to Elmdon, Littlebury Green, Arkesden, Clavering, Langley Lower Green and Duddenhoe End.

Stopping for a breather before descending to Arkesden
Looking back towards Littlebury Green

And this is where we went:

Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the ride.

Martin

Categories
Uncategorized

30th July 2020. An Anglo-Saxon Expedition.

Thirteen Windmillers set off, in two groups, on the usual Thursday club ride this time from the Pack-horse Inn in Moulton. Pack-horse bridges (~1400 AD) pre-date the canals and railways. They were just wide enough to accommodate a mule with their packs, allowing them to cross geographical barriers such as the River Kennett here in Moulton.

The Kennett has been much reduced of late, by water extraction for agricultural purposes and to quote the Wikipedia page “it has only been the presence of the sewage treatment works between Dalham and Moulton that has meant any water has flowed through Moulton in recent years”. This reason isn’t in all the guide books though.

The first leg saw us ride through Cavenham and Icklingham, then stopping at the West Stow Anglo Saxon Village. It was 10.50 and they usually didn’t start making coffee until 11.00. However Morris and Andrew used their considerable powers of persuasion to get things started anyway. It was difficult to keep social distancing in this process. Future rides will be altered to try and avoid the problem, so that everyone can feel comfortable and safe.

West Stow was the site of an Anglo-Saxon village (~700AD) and was the site of ‘experimental archaeology’ in the late 90’s, where scientists tried out their theories about how Anglo-Saxon’s lived by re-building the village, in ancient style and trying to live that way for a while. Often this is a disaster of course, but that just adds to the fun.

The centre has a Beowulf and Grendel trail, indicated by a giant log and a wooden sword outside. The tale of Beowulf, a legendary Anglo-Saxon King, is important because it’s one of the first things ever written down in English. Everything else of the era was in Latin, the language of the church and monasteries. The story is; in his mid-twenties Beowulf kills a monster, Grendel and its mother, in a cave. Then after 50 years as King, he kills his final dragon, then dies quickly and painlessly soon after from his wounds. It’s the sort of life-story many members of the club aspire to. Any similarities between it and The Hobbit we are told are “accidental”. But Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford and wrote a book on Beowulf, so I’m not so sure.

Such stories share the common tropes of good versus evil, reluctant chivalrous hero and the tragedy and pathos of a final, but costly victory. They were told round the camp-fire in an oral tradition, with the teller making them more popular, by embellishing here and there.

This tradition isn’t dead.

The Anglo Saxons were well known to popularise stories by the inclusion of suggestive language and for mentioning their love of beaver which was readily available in their riverside villages.

The ride returned via Dalham, a very attractive village, which has both an old oast-house and a windmill. Though getting a picture of the latter required attaching a telephoto lens to my phone . In Dalham a small group split off for a detour, adding a few extra miles, on what was a beautiful day for cycling. Back at the pub we enjoyed food outside and were joined by Brummy Brian who had cycled out to meet us.

Thanks to Morris for the route and to Andrew who books the pubs, deals with all the administration and who led the 2nd group round the ride.

Categories
Braughing

23 July 2020: Simon’s kit bike

Thursday morning saw the Windmillers gathering at the Golden Fleece, unloading their bicycles, strapping on helmets and applying liberal doses of sun tan lotion, while Landlady Jess stood by to take our orders for lunch.

Come 09:15, we were off, in two socially distanced groups, one led by Maurice, the other by Andrew, heading south towards Puckeridge. Alas, Simon, in his haste to leave the house, had grabbed the nearest bike to hand and only now – some two miles into the ride – realised his saddle was uncomfortably high. Pulling over to make adjustments, he enquired whether anyone had a spanner. Delving into saddle bags, we mustered an impressive collection of multitools and hex keys – but nobody had what Simon actually needed, which was a good old British Standard Whitworth half inch spanner. Nothing for it, Simon, but to sit tall in the saddle and remember to always dismount alongside a high kerb.

And that wasn’t the end of his travails. Along the route, we got quite used to dodging various bits that fell off Simon’s machine; a broken reflector here, a detached derailleur cable there, and from time to time the rear peloton caught up with the front peloton providing ample opportunity to return the various components to their rightful owner.

And what a lovely route it was, taking in Barwick, Whempstead, Benington, Walkern and Ardeley – where we pulled in for refreshments at Church Farm. It is a sign of these COVID times that most establishments take an inordinately long time to serve a dozen or so Windmillers. There is usually only one person allowed behind the counter to take our orders, make the coffee, serve cake, take payment, etc. But hey, at our time of life, what’s the hurry?

Church Farm comes up trumps, however, for lending obscure tools to distressed cyclists; a friendly mechanic providing Simon with a half inch Whitworth spanner. Top chap!

Back on the bikes, we made the return leg – via Wood End, Haultwick, Great Munden and the delightfully named village of Nasty – to Braughing and the Golden Fleece where our hosts, Peter and Jess, served up an excellent lunch and Howard, this week’s birthday boy, bought the beers.

Happy birthday, Howard!

A big thank you – as ever – to Maurice and Andrew for organising another superb outing. And well done, Simon, for managing twenty something – fairly hilly – miles using just two gears.

30 miles clockwise from Braughing

Brian