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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.)

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10 May. Quality pics ride. 20 miles

By any standards, even the high ones set by Brian, we were fortunate to have with us on this ride three ace photographers – Jeremy, who took the one above, (having spurted ahead like a true professional to find a good vantage point), Charles, who took the photos of the puncture repair brigade, and the third photographer, responsible for the last photo in this blog, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Deborah arrived at The Red Cow in Chrishall with her bike already in disarray – a puncture in her front wheel and a brake that hardly worked but an army of helpers led by Alan set to work whilst others including Jenni and Martin whiled away the time playing footie in the car park.

Gallant Alan sorting out Deborah’s pre-ride puncture whilst Jenni gives advice
Injured Alan regretting his gallantry (or is he just giving the finger?)
Shiny Simon waiting patiently for the off

Eventually, together with Maurice, Andrew and Martin, all nine Windmillers set off on the same route as two weeks previously, but in a clockwise direction. This is where we went:

The weather was perfect – sunny, warm and a long, light evening to look forward to ahead to devour fish, chips, burritos, mushy peas or whatever else took people’s fancy from the Pimp my Fish van back at The Red Cow. And the fields were ablaze with oil seed rape, but no signs of course of Chinese or Japanese tourists who descend increasingly on the UK, in normal times, to admire our yellow fields.

Bluebells were also at their best, although a trip to Rickling Green is necessary to see Deborah’s favourite display where she reports they are better than ever this year.

Flower girls Jenni and Deborah stopping to admire the bluebells between Anstey and Nuthampstead

Cycling past Bridget Tarrington’s house in Nuthampstead it wasn’t long before another stop was made on the climb to Great Chishill where Jenni, Deborah and Maurice were like Chinese tourists admiring the field of oil seed rape stretching towards ‘our’ windmill:

Yet more yellow, with cowslips at their best too.

Meanwhile, the others had careered on ahead desperate for beer and to get first in the queue for Pimp my Fish at The Red Cow, where a warm welcome was received from the ever efficient staff. Hats off to them for being so well organised.

Towards the end of scoffing chips, and Jeremy tucking into a juicy cod burrito which risked ruining his smart bike jacket, there was much merriment as our anonymous photographer took a classy photo of Martin’s half pint of beer, worthy of Charles Eck the celebrated beer photographer………….

A view to behold of Martin’s beer!

And on that revealing note (ho-ho), the only thing left is to thank Maurice and Andrew for organising another great ride, and our photographers for their quality pics.

Martin

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Braughing

Safe seats

It was polling day and the Windmillers were exercising their democratic right to roam North East Hertfordshire. Our safe seats were Maurice, Andrew, Suzanne, Deborah, Tom, Roger, Brian, Graham, Simon, Howard, Charles, Alan, Victor, Rod and Lawrence.

Maurice forms a majority

Maurice set the pace, leading a slim majority out of Braughing towards Puckeridge, followed five minutes later by Andrew’s coalition of Scots, Irish and independent hopefuls.

Andrew’s working coalition

The constituency of North East Hertfordshire has an electorate of some 76,000 – but thankfully only a small proportion of them were out driving; we enjoyed quiet roads, unhindered by traffic.

Stopping for refreshments at Church Farm, Ardeley, our two parties caught up and, resisting the urge to score cheap political points, we compared manifestos over coffee and cake.

Simon, Victor, Graham and Suzanne at Ardeley

Back on the bikes we headed for Haultwick (according to Roger it’s pronounced ‘Artic’) and Cromer, where we paused for the obligatory Windmillers-by-the-Windmill photograph. Then it was on to Sandon, Buntingford and Westmill before returning to Braughing.

Howard, Alan, Lawrence and Tom – wrapped up at the Golden Fleece

Arriving in the garden of the Golden Fleece, Peter and Jess gave us shelter from the elements and served up an excellent lunch, made all the more special by Andrew buying the beers. Happy Birthday, Andrew, and lang may yer lum reek!

How old, Andrew? Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey – don’t ask!

Our thanks go to the Whips’ Office – Maurice and Andrew. Also Charles and Simon for the photographs – and Peter & Jess for taking such good care of us at the Fleece.

28 miles anticlockwise
Eggstraordinary levels of rural crime around Buntingford

Brian (Returning Officer)

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29 April. Brass monkey weather in Suffolk. 28 miles.

As the saying goes, it was cold enough on this ride to freeze the balls off a brass monkey – a reference to cannon balls on a ship’s deck in case you were wondering, or so the myth goes. But this didn’t stop 19 Windmillers from venturing out on yet another mixed day of sunshine and icy cold April blasts, including hailstones at one stage. Amongst them were Alan and Martin who chose, and bitterly regretted, baring their legs whilst Simon wore just his familiar white shirt under his jacket and shivered his way around the Suffolk lanes.

Those more sensibly dressed were Maurice, Andrew, Ken, Howard, Charles, Roger, Lawrence, Brian, Rod, Geoff, Chris, Mike, Suzanne, Ric, Graham and Jeremy. Ric was already warmed up having ridden all the way from Harston.

Setting off in two groups from The Three Blackbirds, Maurice led the first group around lovely quiet Suffolk lanes on a route which included both familiar and new roads, followed by Martin’s group a few minutes later. This is where we went, clockwise:

Cycling past the posh, neat and tidy studs in Cheveley it wasn’t long before Dalham was reached where both groups stopped to look at the Lower Windmill, minus its sails. Presumably there was an Upper Windmill at some stage but there is no sign of one now.

Group A looking towards Dalham windmill, whilst Group B got a bit closer

On we went through picturesque villages being pelted with hailstones at times, which attack bare legs like shotgun pellets. Group A decided to have coffee at a Stradishall café outside the prison gates whilst Group B stopped at The Plough at Rede and enjoyed plentiful supplies of coffee in the back garden. So impressed were they that a return visit is planned for lunch when the weather allows. Just outside Rede is the highest point in Suffolk at a mountainous 131m.

Group A chilling out at Stradishall

By this time, Graham and Mike had caught up with Group B which then subdivided again to form Group C to keep numbers down and a slightly different route to Group A was taken through the lanes on the return leg.

Geoff, Suzanne and Andrew stopping to admire St Mary’s Church in Hawkedon, the only church in Suffolk to be situated on a village green. It is a Grade I listed building, and includes a painted panel depicting St Dorothy and a square font with carved panels thought to date from the 12th-century. Hawkedon means ‘hill of the hawks’, derived from the Old English hafoc meaning hawk, and dūn meaning hill.
Meanwhile Group A were happily admiring a junction with the A143

Back at The Three Blackbirds in Woodditton where everyone arrived at around the same time, unlike last week, warm clothes were donned by those who had them whilst blankets were dispensed to others as we sat in a wind tunnel to tuck into a good lunch, although some wished they had gone for dishes with larger portions. Some warmed up, others didn’t, not helped by the gas heater expiring but it was good to be back once again around tables in the time honoured fashion of The Windmill Club telling stories and swigging good beer, all paid for very generously by Howard whose birthday we celebrated. Cheers Howard!

But there was one person who never quite warmed up:

Simon still warming up after lunch. Lawrence doesn’t look too warm either.

Despite the cold, this was a great route and we look forward to exploring more Suffolk lanes soon. Thanks to Maurice for arranging it, Andrew for organising it and Brian, Charles and Suzanne for the photos.

Martin

PS. Congratulations to Graham for clocking up 3,000 miles to the end of April. And huge thanks to everyone for raising the magnificent sum of £3,405 to date, i.e. approx £1 for each of Graham’s miles. So if Graham does 9,000 miles for the year, will we make £9,000 and achieve two bullseyes?

Two arrows on red target - business concept Stock Photo - Alamy

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Braughing

Fashionably Late

Brian should know better than to just blindly follow Maurice’s GPX routes. He should know by now these provide general guidance as to direction rather than turn-by-turn instruction. Just because said route directs you off-road, through a wood, up a grassy bank, over several stiles and across a paddock full of frisky horses – doesn’t mean you should follow it unquestioningly. Alas, that is just what Brian did – as did all the other mugs who followed him.

“Where the hell are we?” “Just pass me the bike, please, Martin”
This way!
Andrew advises Roger on the best way to corral frisky horses

The upshot was that the eight poor devils following in Brian’s wake arrived back at the pub nearly an hour after Maurice and his seven wise men – causing some consternation as rumour had it Birthday Boy Rod would be buying the beers. We rolled up as Maurice’s group, having wisely stuck to the road, had finished their lunch and were contemplating a second pint.

Some seventeen Windmillers had set out several hours earlier from The Golden Fleece at Braughing for a thirty-odd mile circuit of East Herts and the Lee Valley. This being Maurice’s home turf, he had included some particularly lovely lanes and riverside paths, and highlights along the way included the view over the bird reserve at Amwell, the gazebos overlooking the River Lee at Ware, and a stopover in Ware itself for some excellent coffee and cake.

Maurice’s group at Amwell – closely followed by . . .
. . . Brian’s group at Amwell

Viewed across the river in the bright April sunshine, the gazebos, some dating back to the 18th century, were built by innkeepers and other high street traders as havens of peace and quiet away from the noise and bustle of the town. In the 1830s there were some 25 along the riverside but, by 1980, only ten remained.

The gazebos at Ware

Back at The Fleece, we raised a glass to Rod and sang him a boisterous Happy Birthday.

For the record, the turnout was: Rod, Maurice, Andrew, Lawrence, Mike, Howard, Graham, Alan, Ken, Charles, Simon, Roger, Deborah, Martin, Suzanne, Tom and Brian.

Nigel had hoped to join us but pulled out at the last minute citing a problem with his boat. Whether it was shipwreck, mutiny or a Suez Canal mishap, we don’t know – but we wish him well and look forward to catching up with him again soon.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising things – also to Pete and Jess at The Fleece who served up a splendid lunch.

And thanks for the beers, Rod. Top chap!

Birthday Boy Rod contemplates his bar bill – while Maurice is all smiles
34 miles clockwise from Braughing

Brian

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Things are getting better

Monday 19th April 2021. Our second Monday starting from the Red Cow in Chrishall, with last week’s cold winds starting to ease. An excellent turnout which formed into two groups; Victor, Maurice, Deborah, Jenny, Suzanne and then Rod, Charles, Sandra, Andrew and myself (Simon). The route was as last week but in the reverse direction.

Nice dry weather, the hedges in masses of white blossom. No leaves on the trees, daffodils starting to go over and blue-bells appearing in sheltered spots. Very much nicer to be riding in groups with the prospect of a sociable drink at the end. Life was getting back to something like normal. £4 a shot for AstraZeneca, even £30 for Pfizer. Feels like a bargain.

Flags were at half-mast after the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. I was informed, by our military contingent, that most citizens had even hung their flags the right way up. Not something you can always rely on apparently,

they were just not at quite the right height.

The UK flag is formed from those of the English, Scottish and Irish. The Welsh representative had presumably nipped out for leek.

The English overlays the Scottish saltire. In the unlikely event that Scotland had won various of the battles, the flag would have looked rather different. The Irish cross was added later. The overlay is jigged a bit (the correct term is ‘counter-charged’) ensuring that a bit more of ‘Andrew’ is showing than Patrick in the all important top left area. Thus in the Union Flag, George takes precedence over Andrew, and Andrew over Patrick.

You idiots! Half-mast does not mean half way up the pole. Essex residents failed this test in significant numbers. So that members of this auspicious club do not make egregious errors, I include the correct protocol here.

In your citizenship test you may be asked the correct location of your flag, relative to the finial, during different periods of national commemoration. So as to avoid the dire consequence of having to live somewhere awful, like France, Switzerland, worst case scenario Belgium, please pay attention to the instructions here.

Once we escaped the distraction of miss-hung flags the ride settled down to the usual routine. Andrew’s bike failed after the first couple of miles. Schwalabe Marathons in tact, but the rest of the bike rebelling to such a degree he had to return home. Sandra took up the role of leader most effectively. Great to have her back with us.

We eventually caught up with Maurice’s group who had also had their troubles. Charles took the opportunity for some photos

Charles manages a nice in-ride snap
Welcome break for drink

Eventually we made it back to the Red Cow where Andrew had booked tables (three cheers to Andrew who looks after us all so well). John was already a pint or two in. Martin was even better informed about dinosaurs, having been on grandfathering duty.

As is the fine tradition in the club, beers were drunk and light refreshment taken in the cooling night air. Things were indeed getting better. ‘All will be well’ as we look forward to many rides yet. We thank Maurice and Andrew for their efforts.

The end of an era. ‘No point in complaining, better just crack on with it’.

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15 April. Glorious Suffolk ride. 35 miles.

How does Maurice do it? Yet again he comes up with a ride we haven’t done before, this time a glorious ride into deepest Suffolk using carefully researched farm tracks and lanes which produced quite a testing 35 miles, as can be seen from the elevation / gradient plot below, some hills approaching 10%.

Starting from The Fox & Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead, where Maurice had also arranged for coffee to be laid on at 9.00am, and riding in two groups, Maurice led the first group comprising Ken, Rod, Roger, Simon and Alan whilst Andrew, Howard, Brian, Deborah, Lawrence, Mike and Martin followed along about 10 minutes later. Geoff was due to set off too but unfortunately had left his battery behind at home and had to return to collect it, but caught up with the gang later on in Clare. (Don’t worry, Geoff, it happens to us all, having left my golf battery behind recently, with similar expletives expressed. Ed.)

After traversing the farm track successfully shortly after leaving Steeple Bumpstead and before reaching the A1307, a delightful lane led us through to the hamlet of Wixoe before emerging at Baythorne End, where group B stopped to admire a fine Georgian house with walls made from knapped flints, which must surely represent one of the finest houses of its type around, and definitely a labour of love.

Flint mansion at Baythorne End

The weather was perfect, the hedges were ablaze with blossom, leaves were emerging, cowslips were out, daffodils were having a last gasp whilst narcissi and tulips were taking over, the birds were singing, the pubs were open and Windmillers were again riding together in a group. What could be better? Up and down the hills we went passing more lovely Suffolk houses, cottages and churches including this fine looking example in the small hamlet of Fenstead End near Glemsford:

St. Mary’s Church, Fenstead End
Group B overlooking the River Glem, choosing not to go through the ford

After approx. 25 miles it was definitely time for a coffee stop and the café at the old railway station in Clare was our destination, which we had visited on previous occasions. Some queued patiently for coffee whilst others opted for their own refreshments but it was a pleasant place to relax and for both groups to meet up prior to the final leg back.

Group B ouside the old station at Clare
The railroad runs through the middle of the Grade 2 listed café
Clare Castle Country Park

Back at The Fox & Hounds a warm welcome was received from the landlady and her staff who looked after us well as we dined under cover in the courtyard garden. It was very good to be ending a ride in the traditional Windmill Club way.

Windmillers drinking and dining in style

Thanks again to Maurice for planning a superb route and to Andrew our organiser who, nevertheless, had to confess his cardinal sins to the Rev’d Holey Moley before setting off on the ride.

Andrew confessing his sins to the Rev’d Holey Moley

Martin

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12 April. Pubs open. 22 miles.

A welcome bonus for the Windmill Club when lockdowns are eased is that changes tend to take place on Mondays, which gives us an extra reason to celebrate. This ride was no exception with the wonderful bonus of pubs opening again, albeit outside, with no requirement to eat a Scotch egg or any other substantial meal, plus the ability to ride in groups larger than six should we wish to do so. So, The Red Cow in Chrishall exploded into life once again with people flocking in for a celebratory drink in the fresh air, warm at first but freezing cold as the evening wore on. The overflow car park was jammed, some customers making a special effort by arriving in their vintage cars. The Duke of Edinburgh would have loved it.

Maurice’s promise of chips after the ride was perhaps another reason why so many Windmillers turned out, but concern was expressed that the ‘Pimp my Fish’ van was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it had been held up or found more lucrative business elsewhere? Perhaps it would be in place and frying away at the end of the ride? Speculation was rife.

It was great to have Sandra with us again after a long absence, showing off her smart new van full of familiar equipment for shearing Alpacas and mowing lawns. Likewise, it was great to have Simon O join us and so together with Andrew, Charles, Deborah, Jenni, Nick, Simon T, Lawrence, Alan, Jeremy and Martin, that made 13 Windmillers in all who set off in two groups at 4.30 pm to navigate the local lanes in near perfect conditions.

This is where we went:

Another England, Scotland and Wales ride
Group B from the left: Simon O, Sandra, Deborah, Andrew, Nick, Charles, Jeremy and Jenni

Alas, ‘Pimp my Fish’ was nowhere to be seen on our return but that didn’t stop Windmillers ordering chips galore from the pub’s kitchen, served with natty tubs of mayo and tomato sauce and washing them down with some fine ales and soft drinks. Andrew had told us of his success stripping down some grubby brass window handles by soaking them in tomato sauce, which put many off from ever touching the stuff again.

1958 Ausin-Healey 100/6 BN4. Lot 215 in Historics Auctioneers auction on 18 May 2011. Expected price £25,000 – £30,000. Sold for £22,000. Now owned by a Red Cow customer.

(Now why did I sell my 1953 Austin-Healey 100/4 in 1967 for just £170? Ok, only 3 of its 4 cylinders were working but even so…….Ed.)

Knowing the cold air was about to descend most Windmillers donned warm jackets and, in Deborah’s case, a very smelly horsey jacket (or so she claimed whilst socially distanced), but this didn’t stop some getting very cold indeed as stories began to unfold, one involving a dead granny in Calais.

Celebrating the easing of lockdown, Windmiller-style

We were promised ‘Pimp my Fish’ would be back again next week (their chips are worth waiting for) and so we look forward to a repeat of the ride. Thanks go as usual to Maurice for planning the route and to Andrew for organising us.

Martin

Last of the dry rides

Some Windmiller spouses have long questioned our sporting credentials, teasing us that we are more a dining club than a cycling club. But it has been six long months* since we last enjoyed a good lunch in licensed premises – time enough to rebut that outrageous slur and demonstrate our commitment to the cause of cycling.

Maurice leads the way . . .
. . . and encounters Andrew’s group going the other way

While it has been an exceptionally long dry spell for the club – dry in the sense of teetotal – Thursday’s outing, while still dry, augured a brighter, more refreshing future. This was to be our last temperance ride before the mighty institution that is The British Public House opens for custom next week; or at least opens its garden. If the weather is good enough to cycle then it will be good enough to lunch!

So it was that some eighteen cheerful Windmillers set off, not just for their final abstemious outing, but also their final ride under rule-of-six restrictions. It was a repeat of last week’s 30 mile route, but an opportunity to reverse the direction of travel. Setting off from Bartlow were Andrew, Geoff, Lawrence, Deborah, Jenni, Brian, Chris, Charles, Martin, Suzanne and Tom; while setting off from Steeple Bumpstead were Maurice, Rod, Alan, Roger, Graham, Simon and Howard.

A number of Windmillers had cycled to the start including Suzanne, Graham, Mike, Tom and Brian; Mike clocking up an impressive 75 miles by the end of the day.

Brian demonstrates his side saddle technique

Along the way, there were a few compliance busting encounters as the various groups pulled over to chat and exchange news.

Who says you can’t take your dogs cycling? Tom stops to chat with mum, kids and a couple of huskies . . .
. . . while Jenni gets down with the kids
Reverend Moley Martin and Sister Suzanne
Give us a smile, please, Geoff

Cafés are few and far between in these parts, though several Windmillers did venture a few miles off circuit to visit the The Old Butchers Coffee Shop in Balsham; an excellent refreshment stop and well worth the diversion. And many found the coffee at the convenience store in Keddington more than acceptable, especially when Deborah was buying the cakes, individually wrapped madeleines, no less. Proust would have approved.

Well worth a visit

Poor old Tom suffered an unusual puncture caused by damaged rim tape, but being our star mechanic, this was fixed in no time.

Thanks as ever to Maurice and Andrew for organising things.

*Would you believe it, our last wet (beer-wise) outing was way back on 2 November in the Red Cow.

Brian

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1 April. Three counties ride. 30 miles.

There were no fools out on this ride, just 17 wise Windmillers relishing the re-introduction of the rule of 6 and enjoying a change of scenery in South Cambs, North Essex and West Suffolk. Bartlow was the starting point for 13 Windmillers and 4 chose to start in Steeple Bumpstead, both villages having fine pubs which we hope to take advantage of in the near future. Andrew had made arrangements for parking to take place in the Three Hills car park in Bartlow which was very convenient.

This is where we went:

Andrew, Geoff, Victor, Lawrence, Deborah and Jenni went clockwise from Bartlow, most of them sticking together like peas in a pod the whole way, whilst Charles, Ken, Suzanne and Martin went AC before being caught up by speedsters Graham and Mike in Steeple Bumpstead. Maurice, Rod, Alan and Roger went AC from Steeple Bumpstead, which explains why they never saw the AC group from Bartlow. Such are the logistics of CAC rides.

Cruising from County to County, crossing borders at frequent intervals, and soaking up the scenery is what makes a Windmill ride such as this a real pleasure, particularly after such a long period of lockdown when we have been unable to travel very far from base. It will be good to revisit familiar places in farther parts of Essex, Herts, Cambs, Norfolk and Suffolk in the coming weeks and to try out new routes too.

The half way point on a CAC ride for those starting from the same place is never one that can be predicted with any accuracy, but recently we seem to have found nice quiet spots such as the Wimpole ridge last week and, this week, a lane just outside Kedington, where Andrew can be seen above perching on a wall trying to make a phone call from his coffee flask.

Also perching on a wall, but rather wishing she hadn’t, was Jenni:

Jenni, captured by Graham (unintentionally we’re sure!)

Two groups of 6 Windmillers meeting up for a chat across the road did result in a bit of a traffic jam but luckily there were very few vehicles about – just a few stationary OpenReach vans. Martin took this opportunity to ask the men in question if their next job was to install fibre broadband in Ickleton, but the answer was no. They had never heard of the place.

Thoughts of coffee / refreshments started soon afterwards for the Bartlow AC crew who found a British Legion bench in Kedington to sit on and watch the passing traffic go by.

Martin, Ken and Suzanne having a coffee break in Kedington
Meanwhile, in Balsham, Howard looks as if he is having a serious meal of a Scotch Egg whilst a large slice of cake is seen next to Mike. No wonder they look so content.

In Little Thurlow there are some interesting properties. One is a thatched barn with what looks like a miniature bomber wedged in the thatch whilst the one-time grand building next door, a former school built in 1614, looks nearly derelict – a rare sight these days for such a historic property.

This distinctive brick building in Little Thurloe is The Olde School. It was established in 1614 by Sir Stephen Soame (at one time Lord Mayor of London) as a free school for the sons of local farmers who were to be taught English, Latin and Ciphering (that is, arithmetic) and then sent on if possible to Cambridge or Oxford. The ground floor, which was the schoolroom, is cunningly designed so that it was not possible to see out of the windows while sitting down! The garden has a wonderful display of aconites and snowdrops early in the year.
The aeroplane is a World War 2 thatched Short Stirling four engine heavy bomber. The first of the four engine heavies prior to the Lancaster and Halifax and the scourge of Nazi Germany. Its appearance on this barn roof in Little Thurlow is undoubtedly because of the nearby airfield at Wratting Common which flew the Stirling, along with its parent station at Stradishall (now HMP Highpoint). Many of the old war time buildings still remain at the site of the airfield including two large hangars and the local roads follow the course of the old runsways.

Cruising on towards Weston Colville and West Wratting, full of the joys of Spring, the Bartlow AC group enjoyed a final downhill, downwind very fast ride all the way back to the Three Hills, stopping only briefly to cross the busy A1307.

Thanks to Maurice for taking us farther afield on a lovely circuit, Andrew for his organisation and Charles, Graham and Suzanne for their photos, plus The Three Hills for the parking – we’ll see you soon.

Martin

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29 March. Summer arrives early. 22 miles.

It was only a week ago that Spring arrived but Summer came in hot pursuit and encouraged some Windmillers to bare their limbs on this ride and enjoy the sunshine whilst doing a repeat of last week’s ride around the lanes. Those taking part fully clothed were Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Nick, Suzanne and Graham, whilst those showing some their white bits were Deborah, Jenni, Simon, Alan, Charles and Martin. Correction: Rod and Graham claim they were baring their white bits too.

This was a day to celebrate not only the warm weather but also the first easing of lockdown since it was last imposed – Christmas was it? Whenever it was, it seems ages ago but hopefully there is now light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the train coming in the opposite direction. Rod had also taken advantage of golf courses being open again before coming out on the ride – very impressive given the ups and downs of Royston golf course. Well done Rod.

The rule of 6 was back in action too which enabled members to ride together like old times after meeting up and enjoy good conversation, much of which centred on the fish and chip van which was parked in the car park of The Red Cow in Chrishall and where Deborah, Jenni, Simon, Suzanne and Martin ended up to scoff some chips, washed down with a fine Italian white wine. The extra hour of daylight too was a great bonus. So all in all things are looking up!

Here are some of the meetings en route:

Suzanne, Jenni, Alan, Deborah and Andrew enjoying the afternoon sun and the longer day
Deborah spotted these cute Alpacas, waiting patiently perhaps for Sandra to arrive with her scissors. Sandra might use a different four letter word to describe them when they get angry.

Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride and to Charles for hosting the charity box. Thanks also to Charles and Deborah for some of the photos.

Martin

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25 March. Record ride day. 32 miles.

20 Windmillers! Phew, that’s a lot out all at once, a club record, but all perfectly legit thanks to our CAC system. Take a bow Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Deborah, Simon, Victor, Tom, Brian, Chris, Alan, Ken, Jeremy, Roger, Colin, Charles, Graham, Mike, Geoff and Martin. It would have been nice to have a group photo in front of Wimpole Hall but this will have to wait for normal times to return.

The ride was a repeat of last week’s circuit to Wimpole Hall, which proved to be about half way for most people resulting in many meetings on the multi-use trail above the Hall. The conditions were drier than last week and the views from the ridge towards Elmdon in the east and Sandon in the West were clearer.

Thriplow was still looking splendid as Deborah, Ken and Martin met up to start a clockwise route, joining up with Simon in Fowlmere to deposit fivers in the charity box, hosted once again by Lawrence. Thanks Lawrence! And thanks to Ken’s good sense of direction we found our way to Melbourn and then through Meldreth, Bassingbourn and quiet lanes towards Croydon before entering the gates of the Wimpole estate at the Arrington End, where it was considerably less muddy than last week.

The climb from the Arrington end is shorter but steeper than at the Hall end and who should we meet as we puffed and panted our way up the final slope but Maurice with a broad smile on his face. There was no stopping, just a gasped ‘Morning Maurice’ as we passed by, except for Ken who happily chose to dismount and have a chat whilst walking up.

‘Morning Maurice, morning Geoff’

Simon then led the way across the parkland towards a building that we had thought last week might have been an ice house. But, on getting closer, doubts began to be expressed as the building had a corrugated roof, yet it did appear to be buried around the base and surrounded by a clump of trees. Subsequent research indicates that there was indeed an ice house in the same vicinity, situated on Mill Mound, but it no longer exists.

Ice maiden Deborah and Jack Frost Simon outside what they hoped would be an ice house on the Wimpole Estate. The exact purpose of the building remains a mystery.

And then the meetings began, in quick succession:

Ken admiring the view towards Sandon from a coffee stop on the Wimpole ridge

The return leg for the clockwise crew who by this time had Andrew too amongst them, socially distanced of course, took us via Orwell and Barrington when conversation turned again to coffee and sausage rolls which meant only one thing – a stop at The Moringa Tree in Haslingfield, where there was a large gathering of other cyclists outside. Once again the coffee was excellent and the sausage rolls were to die for.

The view of All Saints’ Church, Haslingfield, from The Moringa Tree Café

Meanwhile, those gluttons for distance and coffee, Graham and Mike, were enjoying their coffee at the Hill View Farm Shop in Kneesworth and taking photos of local residents:

The only other wild life spotted it seems were these ‘wild’ Angora goats seen in Fowlmere by Jeremy:

Angora goats clearly have no table manners

Here’s a reminder of the route we took:

And so ended a perfect ride. Thanks to all for making it a record turnout and special thanks of course to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to all the photographers.

Martin

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22 March. All the twos ride – second day of Spring 22 miles

A beautiful Spring day had 13 Windmillers cruising around the lanes – Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Charles, Victor, Lawrence, Simon, Deborah, Suzanne, Alan, Nick, Graham and Martin – on a pleasant circuit devised by our maestro Maurice.

Charles hosted the charity box once again – thanks Charles. And thanks again to energy restorer Victor who dished out Cadbury’s Roses chocolates to anyone in need – a habit which we hope he will continue……

Victor with a mouthful of Cadbury’s Roses at Shaftenhoe End
Windmill girl Suzanne at Great Chishill. Simon would approve the rusty metal.

Nick was met on his clockwise route after Nuthampstead with a report that Maurice was not far ahead and, sure enough, we met him chatting to Bridget Tarrington outside her house, who had been busy working on her lovely garden. Bridget said she was getting walking-fit for a tour of the Yorkshire Dales in June which Ken Worthing and John Bagrie have organised – 6 days of walking and at least 12 pubs to be visited en route.

Maurice, Bridget and Suzanne outside Bridget’s house in Nuthampstead

From Nuthampstead the AC route went via Anstey, where we gave Keith a shout, but there were no red kites to be seen in the meadow behind The Blind Fiddler, where 10 were seen on a ride last year. But we did see another rare species in the guise of Windmillers Rod and Lawrence:

Lawrence and Rod near Anstey, full of the joys of Spring

Not long afterwards, Andrew and Simon were encountered near the Brent Pelham Royal Observer Corps cold war nuclear bunker, constructed in 1961, of which there were many dotted around Hertfordshire as can be seen here: https://www.subbrit.org.uk/locations/hertfordshire/ .

The entrance to the Brent Pelham bunker

This is how one commentator described the bunker in 1998:

‘In a square compound on the West side of a field boundary 75 yards North of a sharp bend in an un-named minor road.

OPEN All surface features remain intact. the hatch is open. Internally some of the furniture in non-standard including an office desk and table. Other artefacts remaining include the cupboard, some electrical items, wiring and kitchen utensils (1998). When visited in May 2007 externally there was little change but internally the post has been damaged by vandals.

An Orlit B in good condition stands against the field boundary outside the compound. There is a bed inside.

Opened in 1961 and closed in 1991.’

P9190114_zps04917310.jpg

The Orlit B above is a look out post which can still be climbed but it is empty inside. If you wish to venture down the ladder into the bunker, this is what you might see: https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/threads/roc-post-brent-pelham-nov-2015.32110/ . Best of luck!

Thanks again to Maurice and Andrew for organising this, our first Spring ride, of 2021.

Martin

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Wimpole improvements, a high-up meeting and tatty harvesters.

This Thursday the 18th March was a route through some of our favourite villages. There was a distinct feel that we are now nearing the end of the pandemic. Still adhering to the rules (in outline) we set off AC and DC from our chosen starting points, several people opting to ride as a two for a bit of company.

Route with quite extensive Wimpole section including a steep climb.

A brilliant turn-out considering how cold it was including: Andrew, Martin, Ken, Lawrence, Simon, Maurice, Charles, Roger, Rod, Geoff, Alan, Howard, Graham, Brian, Mike, Deborah and Jenni.

It’s been a year since lock-downs started. Once again, the Thriplow Daffodil Festival has been a casualty. Now I know what Wordsworth meant as, from under my own cloud, the daffodils started to raise my spirits.

Daf’s are out. Spring is here.

In the beginning there were ….
What are those odd yellow things? Mummy. Just cyclists, don’t worry they will be gone soon.

Lock-down encourages indulging oneself in some way and I am sure some of these indulgencies could be destructive.  Drugs, drink, gambling perhaps? No, I think I will save those for the fourth wave. Cake? Now you are talking. For the most part club members demonstrated their disciplined natures by cycling past; El Cafecito Long lane, Fowlmere, Royston, SG8 7TG and the Moringa tree 11A Church Street, Haslingfield CB23 1JE.

I found that one hard.

Hot Numbers Roastery at Wrights Mowers Dunsbridge Turnpike, Shepreth SG8 6RB. Too far out of the way. The Old Rectory at Wimpole Estate Arrington SG8 0BW. Too slow, I could be dead of hypoglycaemia before getting any cake.

I’m told, in fact I know, there are several other cafes preying on the weakness of weary cyclists. I thought we might set up a cake-Samaritans helpline, in case we have members who need further help. All in the strictest confidence of course.

The clockwise group were encountered almost exactly halfway round. I still can’t believe how well Martin’s plan for lock-down rides has worked, and kept the club going in difficult times.

Clockwise members at Wimpole. They avoided the hill and new trail we note.

We finished up having an impromptu cycling club get together at the top of the hill, on the new multipurpose trail which now goes around the grounds of Wimpole. The whole estate has had an amazing amount of work done on it during this last year. Martin and Penny had done useful reconnaissance the previous day so we were able to enjoy it.

Meeting at the top of the hill.
Andrew multi-tasking on a very nice rustic seat. The hand-made nails used were much admired.
Great views of surrounding villages.

Scientists have studied why people like to climb hills and admire the view. The practice is popular round the world and through the ages. Apparently, people find it makes them feel secure. You can see enemies coming from miles off and prepare a defence they say. I suppose they never thought that the person next to you might have some deadly disease. Still, mostly they haven’t, they just want your cake, so you may need to defend that.

The new trail includes a variety of habitats including lovely open views, the lake, ice-house and gentle curves cutting through woods. It’s been carefully planned and will be beautiful as it settles down through the summer.

Don’t think old logs, think habitat. Insects, food for birds. Also much less hard work. Just leave stuff alone. See Bertrand Russell essay ‘In praise of idleness’

Why remove a stump when it can look like that? Art that is.
Why does that moss stop so suddenly? Answer me that.

At the start of Wimpole’s trail, we came across a barn of ‘old’ farm machinery ready for heritage demonstrations of yester-year’s farming technologies. Andrew denied that the machines were in fact old, declaring, “I used one of those at school. It’s a ‘tatty harvester’ just like the one at my school’s farming club”.

Wimpole’s ‘tatty harvester’

Restored harvester with hanging wooden poles on the left, which protect from flying rocks and potatoes. (only for whimps)

As the machine is pulled forwards the flail at the back rotates. Heavy wires penetrate the ground to a depth of several inches, gouge through the soil and flick the potatoes out into the light.

I’m told that this type of machine, when used by schoolboys, is very safe. That is, safe to assume that if a boy isn’t paying attention to the lesson, the machine will pick them up and flick them over the nearest hedge. I’ve done a little teaching and can certainly appreciate how much this machine would appeal to schoolmasters.

The video is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_H1kJc-xXI you can start watching from 2 minutes if tractors aren’t your thing.

We have always been very pleased to have Andrew here with us in the club, but now we know that we are also very lucky.

Nice route. Thanks to Maurice, Andrew for organising, Lawrence for hosting, Graham for gpx skills and several club members for coffee shop recommendations. All together now; ‘are we there yet, I’m so bored’.

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15 March. Colinas bastardos, again. 21 miles.

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

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

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

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

Charles looking the part

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

Lawrence looking coordinated

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin

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Lockdown Monday rides

New box, new socks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian