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Suffolk West Wratting

Drizzled on

Thursday morning saw a goodly turnout of sixteen Windmillers set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a 30-odd mile tour of West Suffolk. Deceived by the forecast of a dry day, some were regretting leaving their waterproofs at home as they headed out into the persistent drizzle.

A fine dry day, eh? Then how come we’re all sheltering under a tree?

And it stayed wet almost as far as our mid-way coffee stop at the Fox & Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead; Landlady Kate once again kindly opening up early just for us.

Now dry and all smiles; coffee break at Steeple Bumpstead

Happily, this was an outing where nobody got stung or otherwise discombobulated – and Andrew managed to hang on to his wallet for the duration. It was good to see Mike back in the saddle looking fit as a fiddle. And we were particularly pleased to see Lawrence join us for lunch following his unscheduled sleepover in London.

Good to see Mike back in the peloton

For the record our intrepid sixteen were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon, Tom and Victor

Ric and his natty new shirt

Thanks are due, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for getting us all organised and Charles for the photographs. Rachel and Peter too for taking such good care of us at The Chestnut Tree.

Graham would have joined us – if he hadn’t been all tied up
33 miles clockwise: West Wratting – Withersfield – Great Wratting – Kedington – Boyton End – Stoke by Clare – Ashen – Ridgewell – Birdbrook – Steeple Bumpstead – Helions Bumpstead – Plumstead Green – Bartlow – West Wratting

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5 August. A red herring in West Wratting. 34 miles.

A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion. Wikipedia. It’s also a very good pint of bitter brewed by the award winning Mighty Oak brewery in Maldon, and weren’t we lucky to sample it at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting after this rapid ride around Cambs and Suffolk lanes?

Graham ensuring he has enough calories for the ride ahead.

And a rapid ride it was, having first placed our orders for lunch at The Chestnut Tree and had a cup of coffee. But the coffee stop in Barrow at The Three Horseshoes was not so rapid as the coffee machine packed up after the first few had been dispensed, resulting in a long wait for a cup of instant for those at the back of the queue of 16 Windmillers. Blame the Chinese, said Charles, who spoke ecstacically of Danish machines but eventually, after pressing various buttons the machine starting behaving itself just as we were leaving.

The A team of Maurice, Simon, Jenni, Roger, Chris, Jeremy, Victor and Ric were first in the queue whilst the B team of Martin, Deborah, Charles, Alan, Graham, Hazel, Howard and Brian arrived 10 minutes later having stopped occasionally to admire the lovely freshly combined Suffolk countryside, and got the instant coffee as a result.

Maurice gets in early with his coffee orders…….
………..Hazel is happy to wait for hers

All changed in the team line up after coffee as Deborah was on a very tight schedule in order to get to Chelmsford by 1.30pm to view a wedding venue for her daughter and future son-in-law, who got engaged recently. Congratulations to them! There was much debate about how best to get to Chelmsford and the combined wisdom of Windmillers, which might well have resulted in Deborah getting hopelessly lost, actually enabled her to reach her destination bang on time. Much of this must have been due to Maurice switching to sport mode on his e-bike with his slightly depleted group (Victor and Ric joining team B, which was not considered a very good swap for losing Deborah!) keeping close behind.

Meanwhile, the now 9 members of team B set off also at a fast pace until it came to a sudden halt on hearing the word ‘Ouch’ screamed by Hazel who had been stung in a sensitive part of her nether region by something with a sting long enough to penetrate a layer of lycra. Luckily a gallant Windmiller (Alan?) came forward with some sting relief cream which seemed to ease her discomfort. Well done Hazel for managing this whilst surrounded by earnest and willing would-be helpers!

Back at The Chestnut Tree after a delightful ride through very quiet lanes but with a strong head wind on the last leg, we sat down at reserved tables in the garden to enjoy pints of Red Herring and other beers / drinks whilst eating fabulous sandwiches and other dishes, all delivered in such an efficient manner. The ham can be highly recommended, sourced from a Suffolk farm and cooked at the pub. It was great to be joined by Geoff who had done a ride starting from Balsham.

And this is where we went, anti-clockwise:

Many thanks to Maurice for planning the route, to Andrew who couldn’t make the ride but who organised us and to Graham and Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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2 August. Barking mad tales of lost property. 20 miles.

Andrew regaled us on this ride with his stories of joining the ‘real’ Windmill Club whilst on a night out in London, and losing his wallet en route (not due to improper expenditure it should be stressed).

What happened was that he left his wallet at a BP Station whilst en route to the Silverstone Clasic in his brother-in-law’s Mercedes Benz 560SEC, once owned by Martin. One Windmill wag questioned whether there was anything in the wallet but Andrew claimed it contained £240 and they were not Scottish notes, plus credit cards. Luckily it was handed in at the BP Station who promised to return it, and it eventually arrived with nothing missing.

If that wasn’t enough hassle for one day, after a rollicking good night on the town Lindsey left her handbag in a London cab, a fancy handbag at that, which contained her mobile phone. Andrew eventually traced it to a house in Barking where the hung over SEC was directed to early on the Sunday morning in an attempt to retrieve it. And there on the drive was a Black cab and the phone could be heard ringing inside but despite Andrew barking in true dawggie fashion outside there was no answer. Eventually an upstairs window opened and the sleepy cab driver who hadn’t got home until 4.30am came out in his pyjamas and handed back Lindsey’s handbag. Phew! Relief all round in the Rusack family. Or just Barking mad?

These tales of woe were recounted at various stages of a pleasant 30 mile ride around the lanes which Maurice devised, somewhat cruelly, to take in hill after hill after hill after hill, starting with that nasty little bastardo going eastwards from Chrishall Grange.

Deborah spotted the words ‘mountain bike ride’ on the announcement and so came prepared only to find that this was not the case. Humble apologies were given by Maurice but, given the hills, the mountain bike was in its element.

So stops galore were needed to regain breath and hear the next instalment from Andrew.

At this stop on the road from Littlebury to Littlebury Green, Andrew is in full flow whilst Simon peers at Martin, also in full flow, having done a couple of somersaults after hopping over a gate to have a pee in the adjacent field, and landing in a deep ditch the other side of the gate. Much mirth all round.

Then it was on to Arkesden, Clavering, Langley Upper Green, Duddenhoe End and back to the starting point of The Red Cow for refreshments.

Thanks go as always to Maurice and Andrew for organising our rides, and to Charles for two of the pics – he is not guilty of the Windmill Club pic!

Martin

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Suffolk West Wratting

Cresting the Suffolk hills

Fourteen Windmillers – Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Ken, Maurice, Rod, Simon, Suzanne and Tom – set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a thirty-odd mile tour of west Suffolk.

It all went tickety boo; no punctures, no involuntary dismounts, and nobody choked on their lunch, despite Simon doing a funny dance routine.

Simon, our very own Fred Astaire

Mid-way, Maurice had arranged a coffee stop at The Fox & Hounds, Steeple Bumpstead.

Coffee time at Steeple Bumpstead

Safely back at West Wratting, we enjoyed a super lunch in the garden, courtesy of landlords Rachel and Peter, and we raised a glass to Lawrence wishing him a speedy recovery from his illness.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for planning it all and organising things.

33 miles anti-clockwise from West Wratting

Brian

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Braughing Henham

Idling at Elsenham

Last Train to Clarksville . . . Midnight Train to Georgia . . . Chattanooga Choo-Choo . . . but alas, nobody sings about Elsenham and waiting for the barriers to open, even though there’s time aplenty, 15 minutes in our case, to draft a ditty.

So there we were exchanging banter with the crossing keeper, our party of ten Windmillers having just set out from The Cock at Henham, and barely 2 miles into a 30 mile tour of North Essex / North Herts. We had come close to being just nine Windmillers, Rod having forgotten his helmet and about to head home, when Landlady Mel, bless her, appeared with a spare one she keeps on the premises. Now that’s what we call a cycling friendly pub.

Brief Encounter

Some three trains later, the keeper opened the crossing and we were underway once more, heading for Ugley Green and all points west.

Maurice had promised us a flat ride but, e-bike convert that he is, maybe he no longer notices the hills. We certainly did and, as the morning wore on and the mercury headed upwards of 25C, our once-tight peloton became strung out over a mile or more. While some of us like it hot, others, most notably Simon, aren’t so keen and, by the time we pulled in for refreshment at Braughing, he was looking distinctly pink.

Simon wishing he’d brought his bathing costume

It was in Braughing that Maurice had arranged an out-of-hours visit to The Golden Fleece. Mid-way round and run by our good pals, Pete and Jess, where better to stop off and take on some much needed water, coffee and biscuits.

Cooling down at Braughing

Back on the bikes Maurice took the return leg at quite a lick, having promised Mel he would get us back in good time for lunch, so we were grateful when Henham and the The Cock finally hove into view. Sitting in the garden, we enjoyed a restorative pint while Mel’s team served up an excellent lunch.

Lunch at The Cock

For the record, our peloton comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Rod, Simon and Victor.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things, Jess and Peter for opening up The Fleece, and Mel for her hospitality (and helmet) at The Cock.

31 miles anticlockwise: Henham, Elsenham, Ugley Green, Little Hadham, Standon, Puckeridge, Braughing, Furneux Pelham, Stocking Pelham, Rickling, Henham

And finally, we wish our pal Lawrence, currently laid up in St George’s Hospital, a speedy recovery from his illness. We hope to see him back in the saddle soon.

Our very own St Lawrence; get well soon

Brian

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15 July. Ego Borago, Guadia semper ago. 34 miles.

Translated from the Latin, means ‘I, Borage, bring always joys’ and that was certainly the case for 10 happy Windmillers who cruised around the lanes from West Wratting admiring the blue Borage fields and wondering why so many farmers are growing the crop this year. The joy of money perhaps?

Meeting at The Chestnut Tree for coffee before departure were Maurice, nursing a disjointed new knee, Andrew, birthday boy Ric, Simon, Victor, Brian, Howard, Suzanne, Tom and Martin.

Getting ready for the off whilst Maurice collects the dosh in the smart outdoor area of The Chestnut Tree

This is where we went looking for Borage, going clockwise:

The first stop was en route to Dullingham where we gathered under a threatening looking East Anglian sky, which proved to be harmless, and paid homage to Borage (photo above). Simon was joyfully happy to be photographed posing alone………….

………….as was Suzanne:

So Borage clearly has a joyful effect on Windmillers. Not surprising really because this is what Francis Bacon had to say about this ancient herb: ‘It hath an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.’ And John Gerard said in his book Herball: ‘Those of our time do use the flowers in salads to exhilerate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the mind. The leaves and flowers of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadness, dullness and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirm. Syrup made of the flowers of Borage comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the frantic and lunatic person. The leaves eaten raw engender good blood, especially in those that have been lately sick.’ So there you go; pick some and don’t just bung it in your gin and tonic but make a syrup and it will cure all ills whilst also putting a lid on your average lunatic Windmiller.

At the half way stage in Barrow we discovered a new pub The Three Horseshoes who opened up specially for us at 11.00am to serve good coffee, which was enjoyed in the pub garden, but the all important cakes were not on offer unfortuately. Opposite the pub was a fine garage, Kevin Williams, specialising in classic cars and we were somewhat surprised that neither Maurice nor Howard stepped inside to do a deal.

Maurice and Howard missed a great opportunity…………
But who would have wanted this one? Perhaps a member of the National Organisation of Beaters.

The return leg to West Wratting took us through more delightfully quiet Suffolk and Cambs lanes where GPX files came in very useful unless you happened to be on Maurice’s tail, who sped along at high speed even though he was recovering from a fall on his replacement knee – well done Maurice!

Back at The Chestnut Tree, birthday boy Ric very kindly bought the drinks and received a hearty rendering of Happy Birthday in return. Large helpings of food appeared from the kitchen and an excellent lunch was had by all.

Cheers, Ric!

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the route and to Brian and Andrew for some of the photos.

Martin

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12 July. The wettest, muckiest Windmill ride ever. 21 miles.

This says it all. Oh, forgot to mention Jeremy’s puncture.

Martin.

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8 July. Colours to Dye for in Lavenham. 31 miles.

What a colourful ride in Suffolk this was! Colours galore and colourful Windmillers much in evidence, the ride being a repeat of 27 May but going clockwise this time. Some even learnt about the art of dyeing, for which Lavenham is famous.

Starting once again at the popular Plough in Rede, who welcomed us warmly and efficiently with excellent coffee at 9.00am, we pondered the extensive menu before placing our lunch orders and then split into two groups of seven Windmillers before heading east on the first leg towards Lavenham. One wag was heard to comment that the arrival order in the car park set a club record with Deborah being one of the first to arrive and Andrew the last, a reversal of what usually happens.

Preparing for le grand depart, dues having been collected by Maurice

Leading group A was Maurice with Rod, Howard, Brian, Graham, Roger and Lawrence in tow. Following on a few minutes later were the B team of Martin, Andrew, Charles, Geoff, Ken, Simon and Deborah but it wasn’t long before B caught up with A due to the lane being blocked by a large lorry.

Group A take evasive action

Suffolk houses and gardens are a joy to behold, none more so than this cottage and immaculate vegetable garden in the pretty village of Thorpe Morieux:

Andrew, Deborah and Simon admiring a Suffolk cottage garden in Thorpe Morieux
The lane to Thorpe Morieux church – worth a visit next time

Not long afterwards, group B could not resist getting up close to a couple of gigantic John Deere tractors, despite orders barked by Brigadier Charles to ‘get off my tractor’.

….whilst Simon got up closer still. Nothing he likes better than a chunk of agricultural metal.

Soon Lavenham came into view over the fields and it was great to revisit the National Trust Guildhall tearoom, part of the magnificent Guildhall featured above, and to sit in the courtyard garden devouring cakes and coffee.


Once one of the richest towns in England thanks to its leading role in the cloth trade, Lavenham is home to stories of great wealth built on the growth of the cloth industry.
The famous Lavenham blue cloth was an expensive and sought-after material, highly prized and exported to the farthest corners of the world nearly 500 years ago.
This is a woad plant in the garden behind the Guildhall. Woad plants may produce bright yellow flowers, but once the plant leaves have gone through a process to turn them into a dye, the fleece starts to turn a permanent shade of blue.
This is a dyed in the wool Windmiller

The perfect weather continued during the return leg to Rede – not too hot and just a light wind. And the best bit was being able to descend Hartest Hill instead of labouring up it as we did on 27 May.

And of course an obligatory stop had to be made outside the impressive Church of St Mary in Hawkedon:

The Grade 1 listed St. Mary’s Church in Hawkedon is the only church in Suffolk to be positioned on the village green

Group B eventually arrived back at The Plough only a short while after Group A, despite Brian reporting quite a lot of competitive racing between Howard, Graham and Roger, with Howard just having the edge were it not for the occasional call of nature. He also reported no mishaps, no newsworthy thrills or spills, no near misses, punctures or dismounts. Likewise, group B and so the perfect ride ended with a perfect lunch at The Plough.

Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organising us, everyone for taking part and to photographers Simon, Charles and Brian.

Martin

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5 July. Familiar lanes. 21 miles.

The Red Cow in Chrishall was once again the meeting place for seven Windmillers to spend a pleasant evening cruising around our quiet local lanes and admiring the countryside in all its splendour. We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep.

Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Suzanne (who rode all the way from Abington and back), Rod, Alan and Martin set off at 4.30pm and had an incident free ride taking in Heydon, Great Chishill, Nuthampsted, Anstey, Furneux Pelham, Brent Pelham, Lower Langley and Builden End before returning to The Red Cow for a drink and chips from the pulled pork van (which also offers excellent Alsace-style coleslaw with chunky bits of fermented white cabbage – go for it!).

Here is the route taken:

Thanks go, as always, to Maurice and Andrew for devising and organising the route.

Martin

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July 1st Henham, Thaxted, Tilty and Finchingfield

This route started from the The Cock at Henham. It was rather a relaxed start with coffee quietly enjoyed, meals chosen and photos taken of members with new and exceedingly bright kit.

Andrew making a relaxed start
Deborah in expansive mood trying to choose lunch.

Charles in a new top. Having moved on from socks he now runs the risk of dazzling motorists. Cycling-wear seems to have it’s own conventions concerning colours, materials and fit. I reserve judgement.

Exactly which route you took depended on the group that you were in it seems. Andrew introduced a change to the route prescribed by Maurice, but each turned out to be around the 30 mile mark.

These are from Andrew’s and Roger’s strava and the eagle eyed will spot the difference. Still there are so many nice lanes out here it made no real difference

Group 1; Simon, Graham, Rod, Geoff, Deborah, Andrew, Charles and later Suzann made their first stop in Thaxted. This is a place famous for the music of Morris Men and the English composer Gustaf Holst (1874-1934) who is renown for The Planets, which he wrote while living in Thaxted. He is also famous for the hymn tune “I Vow to Thee, My Country”. First performed in 1921, it is now associated with Remembrance Day services. It was used at the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965, Diana’s funeral in 1997, Thatcher’s in 2013 and most recently at that of Captain Sir Tom Moore’s in February 2021. Still half the country is uncomfortable with the very existence of nationalism, let alone its musical expression, so we quickly rode on.

The house in Thaxted where Holst wrote The Planets
Group 1 stop hoping to rendezvous with Suzann. It didn’t happen. Later we found her so everything turned out ok.
Traditional windmill picture. You just wait till the Fabulous Four get to Holland. Fortunately for you there weren’t any in Scotland.

Group 2 (Brian, Hazel, Roger, Maurice, Howard, Rick, Ken, Alan) and Group 1 met up at Tilty Abby. Little remains of the Abby, but the parish church erected on its perimeter is still there. Here people might pray without disturbing the monks or indeed without seeing the extent of church property and lands.



The church is in two distinct parts, medieval stone tower (~1200) and Georgian addition (1714-1830) in beautiful pink
To quote the guide book, ‘east window, an example of elaborate curvilinear 14th-century tracery composed of five lancets leading to an elaborate tracery wheel ‘

From bottom to top: the font is Norman, the font cover is 17th-century painted in foliage patterns, the cycle jacket is from this millennium, the club member dates from the last.

The Abby was destroyed in 1539. The ‘Act of Supremacy’ declaring ‘England is an independent country in every respect’ had been passed in 1534, so I guess the writing was on the wall. The final jurisdiction for Law had been in Rome. Church taxes were paid straight there. Any comparisons with the ECJ and EU bodies of today is purely coincidental.

Resentment at the wealth of the Catholic Church and it’s practices (purchase of indulgencies, idolatry, veneration of relics etc) had started on the continent, particularly in northern Germany, then spread to England. The result was an outburst of religious ferocity like that we now associate with the Middle East. It is estimated that 95% of all the art in England was lost during this period, mostly burned. Abby’s were torn apart and their stone reused, the land was seized. The sanitized version, concerning a King and his choice of wives is now taught in school. The reality and politics involved must have been a lot more frightening at the time.

The remaining church is very beautiful with roof timbers from the 1200’s gravestones from the 1300’s, ancient font, brass and woodwork. This is a nice writeup of the details of the church fabric https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/essex/churches/tilty.htm

We thank Deborah for buying the beer on her birthday, Andrew for organizing and leading a group. Also to Maurice for route planning. This was a glorious morning cycle in a period when the weather has been a bit changeable to say the least. A great day out for all the club.

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Cambridgeshire West Wratting

Two take a tumble

At 390 feet above sea level, West Wratting can claim to be the second highest village in Cambridgeshire, beaten to the top spot only by Great Chishill, where Charles, sitting in his garden at a lofty 479 feet, can look down on everyone else in the county.

Gathering at The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting
Morning coffee

West Wratting’s other claim to fame is as the haunt of the mythical Shug Monkey. Cambridgeshire folklore has it that the creature – half dog, half monkey – haunts the road to Balsham. Nobody saw it, not even Hazel who, having enjoyed a pint of strong and possibly hallucinogenic rhubarb cider with her lunch, was the most likely of us to experience a vision.

At Graham’s recommendation, we were lunching at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting, a wonderful village pub, blessed with a particularly fine garden. Our hosts, Peter and Rachel, had welcomed us earlier that morning with coffee and we were now enjoying a fine lunch and some excellent beers.

Good choice of pub, Graham

It had been an eventful outing. Early on, Roger’s and Alan’s bikes somehow got entangled and they took a tumble in the road. Mercifully, they emerged relatively unscathed apart from the odd patch of road rash and bruising. Nothing as bad as the spectacular pile up on the opening day of the Tour de France.

Look carefully and you can just see Alan and Roger ahead, rolling in the road

We’d had a few mechanicals as well; a puncture for Victor and – more significantly – a seized bottom bracket for Howard. Victor effected his puncture repair quickly enough but Howard, unable to turn his pedals for the final mile, had to be pushed back to base by Ric.

Victor’s puncture repair
Ric pushes Howard home

We always make the time to pull over and admire the natural world. This time it was a silk tent in a hedgerow, the work of a small eggar moth caterpillar colony. Following emergence from their eggs, the caterpillars construct a tent consisting of layers of silk fibres.

Small eggar moth caterpillars on their silk tent

We pulled in for coffee at Café 33 near Stradishall. The place doesn’t look much – but the ladies make exceedingly good cakes; well worth stopping for when you next visit your relatives over the road at Highpoint Prison.

Café 33
Suzanne negotiates a roadblock

For the record, our riders were: Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Roger, Suzanne, Tom and Victor.

28 miles clockwise from West Wratting

Thanks, Maurice, for guiding us around another lovely route. Also Graham, Charles, Deborah and Hazel for the photographs. And Peter & Rachel for their hospitality at the Chestnut Tree; we shall return.

Brian

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Essex

Poppies & Poo

Whenever we passed The Cock Inn at Henham, John Bagrie would go missing, which was a pretty sure sign that the landlord kept a good cellar. So it was high time we tried the place for lunch – and it didn’t disappoint. The food was good, and the beer, generously bought by Birthday Boy Geoff, was good too.

Ten Windmillers – Andrew, Brian, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Maurice, Ric, Roger, Simon and Victor – had set out some three hours earlier from Henham bound for Broxted and all points east. Returning to the pub after an excellent ride, we were hungry, thirsty and – despite the dire weather forecast – thankfully dry.

Stopping midway at Finchingfield, we had enjoyed coffee and cake overlooking the green before returning via Thaxted, where we were delighted to see Ken and Suzanne waiting to join us for the final leg.

As ever, Maurice had devised a lovely route; the Essex lanes were traffic free and the roadsides seemingly ablaze with poppies.

And the poo? Well there was a pile of manure on the roadside in Stanbrook and Simon couldn’t resist the temptation to squat and pose for a photograph.

That’ll take two flushes, Simon

Thanks go to Maurice for the route, Andrew for logistics, Charles, Simon and Graham for photographs – and Geoff for the beer.

Brian

29 miles: Henham – Broxted – Thaxted – Great Bardfield – Finchingfield – Little Sampford – Thaxted – Cutlers Green – Henham
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14 June. Ye olde Clavering Castle ride. 20 miles.

The site of Clavering Castle is reputed to be the oldest in England, according to the description on the information board overlooking the deep moat which would have surrounded it. Windmillers have ridden past the site on countless occasions without noticing it, hidden as it is behind trees and only accessible by a lane leading to the church or by a footpath, but on this ride a stop was made to soak up the history behind it.

Starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall, Maurice, Andrew, Lindsey, Lawrence, Charles, Deborah, Nick, Suzanne and Martin set off on a repeat of last Monday’s ride but in an anti-clockwise direction, taking to gravel tracks at times. This is where we went:

Maurice had warned of gravel tracks and, true to his word, it wasn’t long before we were ascending the lane from Builden End to Lower Langley, passing the Thames / North Sea watershed ditch on the way at the top of the ‘col’. We’re proud of our mountains around these ‘ere parts!

Then it was down to Brent Pelham, Violets Lane (thankfully free of water) and up to Washall Green where a stop was made for a natter as much as anything.

Stopping for a natter at Walshall Green

Not long afterwards it was time to stop and trek up through an unspoiled 1,000 year old meadow (photo above) to view the site of Clavering Castle – all except for Nick and Charles who nobly stayed back like knights of the castle to guard probably 10 grands worth of e-bikes and push-bikes. Thanks chaps!

Clavering Castle’s history, stretching back to pre-Norman conquest times. The castle had a sophisticated water management system which must have been the envy of surrounding landowners. There are no visible remains but there is still much to uncover.
Knights of the modern era – Andrew de Rusack and Lawrence de Vere Wragg – with Maurice the Conqueror looking on.

Continuing northwards via Arkesden on this warm summer’s evening, Maurice treated us to a ride up hill bastardo to Littlebury Green before taking to the gravel again through Elmdon woods and again through Chrishall woods before coming to rest back at The Red Cow, where he very kindly bought a round of drinks. Thanks Maurice! Somewhere along the route Nick left to return home to Meesden and Lawrence likewise to Fowlmere to get back in time for reading bedtime stories to his grand children. If we ask him nicely he might read us one too.

The Monday Pimp my Fish van was not in evidence but, instead, a French van selling delicious pulled pork, chips and the best coleslaw outside of Alsace kept the Woodheads fully nourished for two days.

Thanks again to Maurice for planning the route, Andrew for organising us and Deborah for sharing more photos of her student days in Leeds with the current leader of the Labour Party. Parties in Headingly have probably never been the same since.

Martin

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Braughing

Sunny Delight

Thirteen Windmillers, a veritable baker’s dozen, followed Maurice out of Braughing towards Puckeridge. Born and bred in these ‘ere parts, Maurice needs no map, knowing as he does every nook, cranny, lane and hedgerow, not to mention public house, within a 30 mile radius.

We were off on a 33 mile tour of North East Herts. Twas a lovely morning, and a goodly turnout to boot; following Maurice were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Nigel, Roger, Simon and Victor.

The highlight of this particular route is the delightful five mile section along the riverside, running from Hertford, through Ware and on to Stanstead Abbotts. And where better to pull in for refreshment than Ware Café, where we enjoyed coffee and cake in the garden.

An aerial shot taken by Graham
A ground level shot taken by Brian
And a flowery shot taken by Hazel

Setting off on the return leg, we headed for Hunsdon, Perry Green and thence Braughing where, pulling into the Golden Fleece, we were delighted to be joined by Suzanne who had pedalled all the way from Abington.

Our thanks as ever go to Maurice and Andrew for organising things; Simon who got stiffed with the rather large bill for refreshments at Ware; plus Charles, Graham and Hazel for the many photographs which you can find here in the club album.

33 miles anticlockwise
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Cambridge

Destination Grantchester

Grantchester, according to the eponymous TV series, is the murder capital of East Anglia. Week in, week out, some poor sod gets bumped off, whereupon the evil doer is tracked down and unmasked by the local vicar-cum-sleuth. It’s Cluedo with clerics.

So it was on Thursday that we rounded up the usual suspects: gang leader Brian, followed by Alan, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Jenni, Jeremy, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger – and prime suspect Charles (aka Colonel Mustard, handy with a lead pipe, wrench, rope, revolver, dagger or candlestick).

Starting out from Trumpington, we headed for Cambridge and the fens. Guaranteed a hill-free ride, our regular e-bikers Rod, Charles and Geoff had opted to leave their e-machines at home and pedal the 32 miles unassisted.

Willingham Auctions

Mid-way, we stopped for coffee and cake at the Willingham Auctions Café, and it was here that we quizzed Deborah on how she came to feature in yesterday’s national newspapers pictured alongside the dashing Sir Keir Starmer. The photograph was taken in the 80s when they shared a student house in Leeds.

Deborah reminisces . . . happy days as a student in Leeds . . .
. . . with Keir Starmer in the foreground and Deb behind looking cool in shades

Setting off once more, we headed for Over before turning south and winding our way homewards through Longstanton, Oakington and Girton. Finally, skirting Cambridge to the west, we pitched up at the Blue Ball Inn, Grantchester and tucked into a well earned lunch.

32 miles anticlockwise from Trumpington
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27 May. Pagan happenings in deepest Suffolk. 31 miles.

Simon was full of the joys of Spring on this ride through deepest Suffolk, resorting to Pagan displays of happiness at times which involved praying to the flowers (photo above), ritual dancing to celebrate the forthcoming summer and a special Pagan pose too for good measure:

Starting from The Plough in Rede, where Joyce and her staff made us feel very welcome with large helpings of coffee whilst we placed our lunch orders, we split into two teams with Maurice taking the A team of Rod, Roger, Charles, Suzanne, Deborah, Alan and Jeremy whilst Martin followed on with the B team of Simon, Brian, Lawrence, Graham, Mike, Hazel, Geoff and Victor.

Teams A & B preparing for departure

This is where we went, cruising through the most delightful countryside on a reasonably warm morning, waiting patiently for the sun to emerge:

The first village on the circuit was Hawkedon, which we rode through recently, with its church situated centrally on the village green and surrounded by quiet lanes – a spectacular sight when coming from the direction of Rede. This set the pattern for the rest of the ride as we passed through Hartest with its steep hill (the steepest in Suffolk with a maximum gradient of 12.6%), Lavenham, Thorpe Morieux, Bradfield St Clare, Sicklemere and Hawstead.

Team A chose to stop in Sicklemere for coffee whilst Team B took up Brian’s suggestion of coffee in the centre of Lavenham at the excellent National Trust Tea Room / Garden.

Cool dude Deborah with Rod, who looks remarkably like her friend Keir Starmer

By this stage, Mike was not feeling 100% having already ridden to the start with Graham and Hazel and so he took it easy with Graham on the remainder of the circuit but all arrived back at The Plough at about the same time thanks to puncture stops for both teams, Deborah suffering one for Team A whilst Brian got one in his back tyre shortly after thumping into a large pothole. But, boy were we impressed with Brian’s speedy repair – surely a Windmill Club record – not timed but it can’t have been more than 4 minutes. Well done, Brian – fancy giving the rest of us a few lessons?

Brian undertakes a speedy tube replacement whilst Geoff and Victor look on in awe

Meanwhile Charles in Team A had been busy snapping away as they moved through the Suffolk lanes:

Back at The Plough, those who stopped for lunch sat down inside a very pleasant dining room and enjoyed an excellent lunch washed down with drinks kindly provided by birthday boy Graham, who received a hearty rendering of Happy Birthday thanks to having choirmaster Lawrence with us and being joined by other pub customers too. We nearly brought the beams crashing down. Thanks Graham!

After lunch Hazel couldn’t resist chatting up the owner of a smart red Jag in the car park, alongside other iconic vehicles out for a spin.

Ton up kid Hazel in matching gear. She has probably done more than 5,051 km this year, and at Jag-like speeds too.

Many thanks to Maurice for organising the ride in all respects, in the absence of Andrew who was sunning himself in Scotland. All agreed that the ride was worth doing again in the opposite direction, with the benefit of descending Hartest Hill.

And thanks to Charles, Lawrence and Graham for supplying some of the photos.

Martin

PS. Just to confirm that of the money we have raised so far this year, we have already distributed £1,000 to Macmillan Nurses following the sale by Charles of the model boats given to the club and £200 to Jess at The Golden Fleece to support a breast cancer charity. Let’s hope that by the end of the year we beat last year’s record distribution.

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24 May Go-Go-Go then Stop -Stop 22 miles

by Alan Ferrie

Yes or No was the question poised to the Windmillers at 2:50 by Andrew on Monday afternoon. Andrew had spent the early afternoon studying meteorological websites and to be honest they did not look too promising for a dry ride. Not wishing a repeat of the previous Monday when a late call resulted in some cyclists not seeing the late cancellation and turning up. Andrew requested that the group made the call to go or not.

Within a few minutes of the question being poised there was a unanimous yes for the ride.

Andrew made the GO call at 3:15.

At 4:15 Andrew, Maurice, Deborah, Rod, Charles, Jeremy, Simon and Alan gathered at the Red Cow. It was clear from Windmillers dress that there was a range of opinion on what type of weather they might encounter.  Ranging from shorts and shirts to a full wet suit get up.

At 4:30 Andrew made another GO GO Go call this time in the style of the recently departed Murray Walker and off we went.

The route was a reverse of last weeks Monday ride  Great Chishill, Little Chishill, Langley Lower Green (by passing the Bull), Butts Green, Upper Langley, Duddenhoe End, Littlebury Green, Catmere End, and Elmdon.

The tail end of the group had gone less than 200 meters from the Red Cow car park when the first Stop call was made.

Jeremy had a front puncture. The front of the group had gone ahead but the stop call reached them before they had gone too far up the road.

This unplanned stopped allowed discussion among the front of the group as to what of type of pine tree was at the corner of Palmers Lane and Abrams Lane. Simon told us about the new technology in Android phones that enables users to photograph a plant and Google will find the name. As nobody had an Android phone we will have to wait for another day to find out what type of pine tree it is.

While the discussion on the local flora was taking place Jeremy set about fixing the puncture only to find that the replacement inner tube was also holed. Fortunately Deborah had another inner tube only for Charles to announce that it too was faulty. By this time Alan who had been in the front of the group came back to find out what the delay was, after all we are all seasoned cyclists who can change a tyre in less than 5 minutes!

A third inner tube was produced from Alan’s saddle bag, but before it could be fitted, it was found that the second inner tube was in fact fine. The fitter admitted that they had made made a technical error??

Charles in his wet suit , getting very hot not bothered but charming as ever as he fits the second inner tube.

Within a few minutes we were all off again.

Very soon afterwards very dark clouds appeared and it was clear that the rain which many of us had been tracking before we set off was coming our way. In fact looking around after the Little Chishill hill there appeared to be rain showers everywhere and especially in the direction we were heading.

As we passed through Lower Langley we were passed by a van and car who had obviously been taking tips from the local rally school as they felt the need to use both the road and verge to pass us by. The car narrowly missing a head on with another car coming round the corner.

Somehow either by clever route planning or just good luck we managed to miss most of the rain with only one shower cloud giving us a gentle wet kiss as we passed through Roast Green.

The rest of the ride was enjoyed by everyone in fine weather and with no more impatient drivers. We were about 2 miles from the end just before Elmdon when the second Stop call went up. Alan had a puncture in the rear tyre.

Only a single inner tube was required with Charles clearly demonstrated that his earlier error was a one off.

Rod and Charles stayed behind while the rest of the group sped off to the get the drinks in from the Red Cow and chips from Pimp My Fish.

Rod ,Charles and Alan arrived shortly after the others and enjoyed their well earned chips and beer.

Thanks to Maurice for planning another excellent ride and to Charles and Rod for helping with the punctures and to the weather for not drowning us.

Alan

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Inside at Last

We are told, by those in authority, that it now safe to dine indoors. On this cold, windy day ‘The Club’ was happy enough to comply. The prevailing attitude to authority however remains unchanged. This is probably best summed up by the pub’s name, the ‘Pig and Abbott’.

The Abbott’s girlfriend immortalized in straw

Martin does a last minute bit of fixing
Our route this week

Unsettling behaviour between authority figures and farm animals is nothing new. For instance David Cameron’s ‘pig-gate’ was just a distant echo of similar accusations levelled at Lyndon Johnson and numerous other authority figures down the centuries. Still we’ll be back soon enough to our favourite pubs like the ‘Fox and Duck’, the ‘Axe and Compass’, even the ‘Fez and Ant’, all in good time.

We split into two groups. One lead by Martin and the other by Maurice. Martin contrived to give the first group a head start by having a late tinker with his chain. Deborah had come with what looked like a child’s bike she had borrowed. Still it stops her tearing away and making us all look bad I suppose.

Excellent turnout considering the weather: Brian, Alan, Geoff, Rod, Charles, Maurice, Ric, Ken, Deborah, Roger, Howard, Graham, Mike, Suzanne, Nigel, Martin and Simon. All this despite the absence of stalwart members; Andrew, Chris, Victor, Jenny and Lawrence.

The routes details sometimes required close examination
The pub in Wrestlingworth in which Sarah Dazley, who had poisoned two husbands and a child, was held.

The ride past through two rather famous villages in Bedfordshire. The first was Wrestlingworth. Here lived the last woman to be publicly hanged in England (so far),1840. She was on her third husband aged 25, but was rather too fond of arsenic, apparently. A person killed using arsenic exudes a very characteristic odour upon decomposition (arsine gas, any chemist can tell you that). Her previous husbands were exhumed and she was held at The Chequers in Wrestlingworth before being hanged outside Bedford Assizes. The whole village went along for the event, so it is said. Of course they say Capital Punishment wouldn’t be as popular now, but I bet you I could still sell tickets. The refreshments franchise would also be worth having.

The other famous village we cycled through is of course, Cockayne Hatley.

Maurice’s group celebrate the invincible spirit of the Windmill Club
Henley’s grave in St John’s the local churchyard of
Cockayne Hatley

In the churchyard there is a fine gravestone of the poet W. E. Henley (1849-1903). He wrote the poem ‘Invictus’ (invincible) now made more famous by the ‘Invictus Games’. Last verse is the most famous,

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invictus

He lost a leg in teenage and was an inspiration to his friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, who invented the Long John Silver character, having been inspired by Henley’s determined, can-do attitude. Actually Henley almost lost his other leg as well, but it was saved by Lister who had just started experimenting with antiseptics (1870). Still it must have hurt a lot, since anaesthetics only came along a bit later when they were famously used on Queen Victoria to help during childbirth.

Henley’s poem was quoted by Churchill ‘We are still masters of our fate. We still are captains of our souls’ during a difficult period in1941. Also by Nelson Mandela on release from Robin Island and by Barack Obama at Mandela’s funeral oration. Also by prisoners of war in Vietnam, writing it using rat droppings. Also in various Nobel Prize addresses. Well you get the general idea. It’s sort of famous and from Cockayne Hartley in Bedfordshire.

Half-way coffee and a cake at Waresley were most welcome, in one of the most efficient of all the coffee stops we use. If only Wimpole would come along and see how it is done.

The Pig and Abbott had supplied coffee and biscuits at the off and again made every effort to make us welcome at the end. Our own space and excellent food and beer. Inside at last! The rain held off (just). The wind steadily increased but we were safely ensconced in the pub before the bad weather settled in.

It was Alan’s birthday and he kindly bought the drinks. He received the customary candle and celebratory singing.

We thank Andrew for the arranging and hope he can grit his teeth and make it out on Monday. Also Maurice who is still providing us varied routes. We thank him. We are all grateful to have got through the last year as an active club, unscathed.

It will only get better from here on in. Won’t it?

It’s not going to be like being released from Robin Island or involve any writing using rat shit, hopefully. No, I’m ‘captain of my soul’ and remain unreasonably optimistic, despite any infirmities.

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17 May. Go-or-no-go? 20 miles.

The BBC must have another Michael Fish on the staff. This time, not wishing to be blamed for cyclists being killed by massive hailstones on lockdown-easing day, the forecaster warned of terrible weather between the hours of 16.00 and 20.00 which resulted in Andrew calling a halt to the ride at 15.49. Good decision; safety has to be at the forefront of our planning but it was too late to prevent five Windmillers congregating at The Red Cow in preparation for a 16.30 start, a sixth who started early (Nick) and a seventh (Maurice the debt collector) who brought up the rear at breakneck speed to collect fivers from those ahead, making this an official ride after all.

But was it go-or-no-go at 16.30? The skies were clear, there was no wind and so Rod, Charles, Simon, Suzanne (who rode over from Abington getting a bit wet on the way) and Martin took the plunge and set off on what proved to be a delightful ride with not a hailstone to be felt let alone a drop of rain. That’s weather forecasting for you. Who would want the job?

The route took us via Elmdon, Strethall, Littlebury Green, Duddenhoe End, Langley Upper Green and Roast Green before conversation got around to The Bull at Langley Lower Green and how we had not been there for a while. And how good it was to sit outside in the warm sun and enjoy a good pint.

And then who should come along but Maurice, skidding to a halt to collect our fivers but sitting down to enjoy a pint of Southwold.

‘Your fivers or your life’. Debt collector Maurice skids to a halt at The Bull.

By this time it was already 5.30, when Andrew had suggested meeting at The Red Cow, and so Rod decided to call him to invite him over, but to no avail.

‘Andrew, come on over. We’re at The Bull’.

Time was passing and so instead of continuing on the intended route via Shaftenhoe End and Great Chishill, the decision was taken to take the short cut via Builden End where there was a splendid view of Chrishall at the col of the lane.

Watershed moment on the col of the lane leading to Builden End. At this point the water in the ditch to the left has to choose whether to head south to the River Stort and then to to Thames or north to the Cam and thence to the North Sea.

Back at The Red Cow there was time to devour some good chips from the Pimp My Fish van (can someone please explain how a fish is pimped?) and to sample some more fine ale.

We were sorry not to have Andrew with us and also sorry not to see Nick on our travels but luckily the weather was kind to all, except to Suzanne who got soaked in Duxford on the way back and Martin who also got soaked in Ickleton.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the route and Andrew for getting us to the start even though we were not meant to be there.

Martin

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13 May. Record ride? Not quite. 28 miles.

Maurice, Andrew, Roger, Ric, Chris, Brian, Alan, Tom, Deborah, Victor, Geoff, Alan, Charles, Howard, Suzanne, Nigel, Graham, Hazel (guest for the day) and Martin were expecting Lawrence to join them on this ride, which would have made a record turnout of 20 Windmillers. But poor Lawrence had torn a leg muscle whilst out running and so couldn’t make it at the last minute. Suzanne was suffering likewise but, fortunately in her case, she was able to cycle but not run.

It was great to welcome back Nigel who we hadn’t seen since the first lockdown – a sign that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel provided it’s not an Indian train coming in the other direction. And Graham invited a fellow Ickletonian to join us for the day, Hazel Turton.

Hazel Turton, our guest for the day.

The starting point was The Fox and Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead where we were welcomed by the landlady and her staff at 9.00am for a civilised coffee and the placing of lunch orders before setting off on a quiet, twisty- turny route through very minor lanes in North Essex – how does Maurice do it? The man’s a miracle.

This is where we went:

There seems to be always someone who is the centre of attention on a ride and this week it was the turn of Tom who arrived without his helmet (so easily done in the morning rush). Deborah came to the rescue (as often happens in these situations) and promptly whizzed off with Tom to a friend’s house to collect one. That made Tom, Deborah, Brian and Roger the last of three groups to set off, the first one being led by Maurice who shot off as usual at high speed and Martin leading the second group. But it wasn’t long before groups merged, demerged and even went different ways before all met up at Winners Café in Finchingfield for more coffee.

Tom’s second claim to fame was when he stopped to have a drink of water only to discover that when the bottle was squeezed it shattered into small pieces, smothering him with water in the process. He admitted later that the bottle could have been quite ancient and had been sitting in hot sun which could have made it brittle.

Tom with the remains of his shattered water bottle, and his borrowed helmet, whilst Roger looks beside himself with laughter.
St. John the Baptist church in Finchingfield, dating from the 14th Century. Given the dominant location of the building, it is thought the tower was used for both defensive purposes and for worship. There was once a spire but it was blown down during a gale in 1658 and never rebuilt. All that survives of it is the 15th century angelus bell, which is now in the cupola built in place of the spire atop the tower. We passed several other churches with large square towers which may have likewise been used to repel the enemy.
The Grade 1 Listed Guildhall in Finchingfield with its archway to the churchyard.

Winners Café did us proud as the horde of Windmillers descended on them like locusts, hoovering up cakes galore and drinking excellent coffee. Well done to the staff for handling such a large group with great efficiency.

It was only a short ride back to Steeple Bumpstead where excellent beer and a good lunch was devoured in the courtyard at the back of the pub, the drinks being very generously paid for by Mike whose birthday we celebrated in an out-of-tune style. If choirmaster Lawrence had been with us we might have achieved a better rendering of Happy Birthday. Room for improvement before the next birthday is celebrated, which seem to be coming fast and furious at present.

Cheers, MIke. Thanks for the drinks. Happy Birthday and congratulations on having the reaction time of an 18 year old (as opposed to the Ed. being ranked as an 81 year old). Keep on rowing (i.e. pulling oars, not arguing with your wife).

For those who rode to and from Steeple Bumpstead, Graham, Hazel and Ric, the weather changed dramatically after lunch resulting in a thorough drenching on the way back which was very unlucky for them.

Once again, thanks to Maurice for devising an excellent route, to Andrew for organising us and to all those who have contributed photographs. Keep ’em coming.

Martin (Ed.)