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Ely The fens

Goosed in Ely

Fenland can be a disorienting place – with its 360° horizon, black earth, wide waterways and immense skies – but the National Cycle Network’s Route 11 is there to guide you from Cambridge to Ely on traffic free lanes and byways. So it was that eleven hardy Windmillers set off for Ely, a return trip of 40 miles or so, on a cold Thursday in April.

Cambridge Park & Ride: ready for the off

There was plenty to see along the way. Not only do the fens contain around half the grade 1 agricultural land in England but they are also home to herds of deer and rare breeds of cattle and ponies, while the numerous locks, sluices, pumps and dykes keep the waters of the Great Ouse and the North Sea at bay.

Along the way we pulled in for refreshment at Wicken Fen, the National Trust reserve where herds of free roaming konik ponies and highland cattle help create new habitats for wildlife. Their grazing keeps the landscape open and encourages the growth of wetland and grassland plants.

Windmillers stress testing a fenland bridge

It was here that Charles, Chris, Geoff and Ken peeled off and headed for home, leaving Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Howard, Martin, Sandra and Simon to continue on towards Ely.

We enjoyed a splendid lunch at Peacocks Tearoom and Howard, this week’s birthday boy, bought the drinks.

Sandra cringes while Simon struggles with tearoom etiquette . . .

It was as we were putting our helmets on for the return trip that Deborah got goosed – quite literally – by a goose that crept up from behind and pecked her on the bum, to much hilarity all round.

Never turn your back on a goose, Deborah
All set for the homeward leg

The return leg was thankfully somewhat warmer and Martin, Sandra, Brian and Howard pulled up for yet more refreshment at Anglesey Abbey, while Andrew, Deborah and Simon headed on back to Cambridge.

Martin ahead of Simon, with Ely Cathedral in the background

Thanks are due to Andrew for planning the outing and Howard, top chap, for buying the drinks.

Best wishes also to Simon as he is taking his Spanish GCSE exam later this week; good luck!

Simon, distracted as he mutters Spanish irregular verbs

There’s lots more photos here in the club album and, if you’re into horses, there’s further information here about the konik ponies.

Konik ponies as photographed by Deborah

And finally, if you want to read about our last visit to Ely, some three years ago, see here.

Brian

40 miles to Ely and back
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Four cyclist and a Walker

24th April 2022 20 miles

The four cyclist Alan, Andrew, Charles and Nick departed from the Red Cow at the appointed hour. The actual number who were going to ride had fluctuated through out the day. We had thought about calling off the ride but as it was a nice day and it was the first ride after the clubs 11th birthday ride we decided to go ahead.

With Maurice being away the ride was led by Andrew.

The ride took us down and through Duxford, Hinxton, Ickleton, Littlebury Green, Elmdon and back up to the Red Cow at Chrishall.


The four riders

The ride passed without incident or really of anything of note until we were passing the meadow between Hinxton and Ickleton, then one of the cyclists spotted a familiar looking walker. Yes, it was Martin who, only a few hours before hand had dropped out of the ride, claiming he had a zoom meeting to attend.

Martin the walker, looking sheepish.

The cyclists greeted Martin with calls that he should be on his bike. Martin smiled back sheepishly, like a young lad having been caught doing something.

Friendly banter was exchanged with Martin over the river. After a few minutes (much to Martin’s relief) the cyclists headed off.

The ride passed without any further thing of note.

Thanks to Andrew for planning and leading the ride.

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21 April. 11th Birthday ride. 31 miles.

It is 11 years since The Windmill Club was established and we still have the dedicated support of founder Maurice, seen zooming onwards at a rate of knots in the photo above on this Birthday ride, and deputy-Dawg Andrew, who decided a rest was needed to smell the bluebells in woods near Nuthampstead. We are indeed very fortunate to have all the hard work taken away from us in terms of ride planning and organisation by those two stalwarts. Helmets off to both of them.

We were fortunate too in having perfect weather for this 11th Birthday ride. Seventeen Windmillers signed up for an outing around local lanes, ten starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall, where Andrew had done a special deal with Toby the landlord for lunch, and six from Ickleton which proved convenient for the gang from Shelford, Stapleford and Ickleton, generally known as the Ickleton mob. And the seventeenth, Deborah, joined for a late breakfast at Poppy’s Barn where we all stopped for coffee, at various times. More anon.

Those starting at The Red Cow were Maurice, Andrew, Geoff, Charles, Simon, Graham, Ric, Roger, Alan and Chris whilst those starting in Ickleton – Ken, Brian, Howard, Tom, Jeremy and Martin were put to work before setting off attempting to heave out the rest of Martin’s stubborn walnut tree stump, but to no avail despite Howard’s idea that a bit of leverage might help.

Howard, Tom, Martin, Ken and Jeremy couldn’t shift the tree stump despite a loud rendering of ‘Hooh! Aah! Hooh! Aah! That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9Ylio8H-VU (for those who want to sing along).

Having given up on the tree stump the Ickleton mob set off a bit earlier than expected and cruised up Coploe Hill with the wind behind to meet up with Ken who had made an earlier start. This meant that we were ahead of Maurice’s group and Andrew’s group and would be first in line for the coffee at Poppy’s Barn. Yippee! Little did we know what was going on behind us……… but Alan has very kindly supplied the details:

Group A or was it group B regrouped at the junction of Bastardo and the B1039. Just as we set off Maurice announced that he thought he had a puncture. How could this be the rest of the group were all thinking after all his bike was equipped with Schwalbe Marathon tyres which are claimed to be the most puncture resistant tyres on the market. 

Sure enough the front tyre was flat.

Never mind with Alan, Geoff, Maurice, Rod and Roger with our many years of experience we would soon have this sorted at a sprint.

Wheel removal

With the wheel and tube removed the next job was to get a new tube. Once the tyre had been checked for sharps, none were found but a cut was.  Maurice rummaged around in his saddle back (which we all know is a bit like Hermione’s bag in the Harry Potter film it contains everything you need, including a shot of port & brandy for medicinal purposes) and produced a tube of the correct size but also fitted with a Schrader valve. Unfortunately the hole in the wheel was for a Presto valve. No matter how hard we tried it was not going to fit. By this time group B or was it C arrived.

More experience arrives

More tubes where offered but they were either too big or too small.

Roger came to the rescue with some super patches. As it appeared all was under control some of the group resumed the ride leaving a few behind to carry on the repair.

The hole was soon identified, patched tyre and wheel fitted on we were on our way. The repair had taken over 15 minutes somewhat longer than the club record of just over 4 minutes.

The hill up to Arkesden was tackled but on the descent Maurice announced that the tyre had once more gone flat.

Puncture repair take 2

Examination of the tube showed that the super patches were not as super as they claimed to be.  Fortunately Charles had joined the group and as we would expect from ex-army personnel a tube of the correct size and valve was produced. It was fitted to the tyre and pumped and pumped but the tyre refused to inflate. Inspection showed the brand new tube had a faulty seal on the tyre. A second tube was produced fitted and pumped. This time it held its pressure and so we were soon on our way.

So the Schwalbe marathon was not fixed at a sprint but with a total time of over 35 minutes, it was a marathon repair.

The Ickleton mob got wind of this once Andrew’s Group C had arrived making us feel somewhat guilty that we hadn’t helped, but then too many cooks spoil the broth, don’t they? Eventually, and looking somewhat puncture-worn, Maurice’s group arrived and soon got stuck into excellent coffee and cakes at Poppy’s Barn.

The Ickleton mob looking deadly serious – planning thier next job?
Exhausted puncture repair team waiting for their coffee and cakes

Things improved after leaving Poppy’s Barn with no other incidents to report other than soaking in the smell of Spring all around and enjoying the sounds of nesting birds. Charles’s hi-tech camera snapped away happily every 3 seconds, just like a bird singing, until the battery ran out:

……….whilst Simon’s technique is reminiscent of the old days of 35mm film when each shot cost a few bob to produce and so each photo takes some time to create, but produces marvellous results:

Maurice’s route was a perfect combination of typical Monday rides to form a circuit of 31 miles taking in familiar villages such as Ickleton, Arkesden, Stickling Green, Langley Upper and Lower Greens, Brent Pelham, Anstey, Nuthampstead, Great Chishill and back to Chrishall. This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/211881c797da89ab45f3709d6d3add02

Entering Great Chishill, a once-in-a-lifetime event was taking place when a fork lift truck was seen carrying a recently cast bell towards the church entrance. But that was not all – the five original bells, four dating back to 1686 and the fifth made in 1841 – had all been renovated and delivered back the same morning, looking very smart on the path to the church door.

Note the mistake of the foundryman from Wightman Foundry who placed a G upside down on this bell

Back at The Red Cow it was good to be joined at lunch by Bridget, Ann and Hazel and we all tucked into fish and chips, chicken and ham pie, or a burger, all of which were pronounced excellent, and washed down with equally excellent ales, wines and soft drinks, all of which were kindly paid for by Tom who had just celebrated his 70th birthday. Cheers, Tom!

And so ended a marvellous birthday ride, but not without Maurice’s puncture incidents which must already place him in the running for the 2022 puncture prize at the Christmas lunch.

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their wonderful organization, to fellow blogger Alan for his report and to photographers Simon, Charles and Brian.

Martin

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Essex Ridgewell

Fifteen go watermilling

Living up to our club name, we rarely pass a windmill without stopping for a photograph – and sometimes even a visit. We have, indeed, been known to stop and admire one of those rare delights, a tidal mill. But never to my knowledge had we visited a watermill . . . until today.

So it was that some fifteen Windmillers stopped off at Alderford Watermill in Sible Hedingham where Martin had arranged for us to have a guided tour.

Alderford Watermill, Sible Hedingham

We were shown around by Owen, one of the volunteers who maintains and keeps alive this wonderful piece of 18th century engineering. Owen explained how parts of the present mill date from around 1720 when it would have been operated by a miller and one assistant producing coarse wholemeal flour. Over the years new power sources – steam, then oil, and finally electricity – were adopted to boost output and reduce the dependency upon river flow.

Owen’s guided tour

The mill finally stopped turning in 1957 and from then on the building was used for grain storage. Now owned by Essex County Council it is lovingly maintained (and continually restored!) by Owen and his fellow volunteers, the Friends of Alderford Mill.

Earlier at the White Horse, Ridgewell, fourteen Windmillers had gathered for our regular Thursday ride. We should have been fifteen but Simon was missing. We are used to losing him during, but not before, a ride and a quick phone call established that the poor chap had mixed up the meeting point with the ride destination. Yes, he was at The Blue Egg. We hung around until Simon eventually, and somewhat sheepishly, rolled into the car park. Now we were fifteen – and all off to, yes, The Blue Egg.

Simon heads back to the Blue Egg
Chris, Sandra, Maurice, Howard and Alan near Gibraltar Mill, Great Bardfield
Coffee and cake at The Blue Egg

As ever, Maurice had chosen a wonderful route; 32 miles on quiet lanes and in perfect spring weather.

For the record the turnout was: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Martin, Maurice, Nigel, Sandra and Simon.

Thanks are due to: Maurice and Andrew for planning the day; birthday boy Charles for buying the beers; Martin for arranging the mill tour; and Owen for his excellent guided tour of the mill.

Millwrights Simon, Hazel, Charles, Andrew, Martin, Chris and Geoff
Simon putting his neck on the line
Simon again, this time wielding a millers thingummyjig
Charles – what on earth is he doing? – and Hazel
32 miles anticlockwise from Ridgewell
Back to the White Horse for lunch. Cheers!
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11 April. Centurians on the Roman Road. 21 miles.

This was almost the reverse of last week’s ride when the tortoises decided to explore the Roman Road byway from Butts Green, near Poppy’s Barn, to Cooper’s End, primarily to get shelter from the wind. Maurice, being one of the hares on that ride, heard such good reports he decided to explore it for himself, this time as Centurian-in-Chief accompanied by his fellow Centurians Andrew, Alan, Charles, Victor, Graham and Martin.

Setting off from The Red Cow, it didn’t take long to reach Cooper’s End despite the long climb up Cogmore Hill to Duddenhoe End. The initial stretch of the Roman road is paved, not in cobblestones but in very smooth tarmac which Roman soldiers would have marvelled at. Quite how a dead-end country lane came to be given such treatment by Essex County Council is a mystery although a recently retired Tory MP, now a Baron in the House of Lords (who once repaid a £12,000 gardening bill he had claimed on Parliamentary expenses) just happens to live at Cooper’s End…………. (Enough of this tittle tattle. Ed.)

At Cosh Farm the smooth tarmac ends abruptly after which a decent surface of road planings continues, not in a dead straight line as shown on the OS map but instead wiggles its way over a ford and then down through the trees as far as Butts Green where it meets the Langley Upper Green – Clavering road. The course of the Roman road actually continues onwards towards Brent Pelham (but not on a public right of way) until it joins the lane we frequently cycle along between there and Meesden. Presumably it carried on towards Braughing and then joined Ermine Street which goes south to London and North to Godmanchester via Royston. Going north east from Cooper’s End would have taken it to Great Chesterford, a major Roman garrison town and where remains are still frequently found.

Windmill Centurians ready for battle

It was good to have Victor with us who was unfamiliar with the local lanes we use on Monday rides but soon appreciated why we like them so much. We are extraordinarily lucky in having such a peaceful and beautiful area to ride around.

It’s oil seed rape time, but no sign these days of Chinese or Japanese tourists who used to come in bus loads to see our yellow fields.

This time there was no road block between Violet’s Lane and Brent Pelham caused by sludge lorries queuing up to deposit their loads, as there was last time, and so we continued to cruise peacefully around until ascending the hills towards Great Chishill and thence to The Red Cow.

Maurice had arranged once again for chips to be available but with Alan having peeled off in Great Chishill and Graham and Andrew having to head for home, this left Maurice, Charles and Martin to scoff large helpings of chips and mayo, washed down with the usual excellent beers on offer.

And this is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/27fbebcaf035835908cb366c8d749be9

Thanks to our Centurian-in-Chief Maurice for planning the route and his deputy Andrew for organising us, plus Centurian Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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7 April. Westerly Windy Windmillers in West Wratting, or WWWWW for short. 28 miles.

48mph or 48kph? Who really cares whether they were imperial or metric gusts of wind forecasted for this ride? Both are Force 8 + on ye olde Beaufort scale and that’s just how it turned out to be for 14 hardy Windmillers as they set out from The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting on a three county circuit of lanes in Cambs, Suffolk and Essex.

Deep in conversations whilst assembling for coffee and lunch ordering at The Chestnut Tree. But what are Simon and Ric talking about?

Maurice led the first group with Ric, Charles, Nigel, Deborah, Alan, Victor and Jeremy in tow, followed shortly afterwards by Andrew, Howard, Brian, Simon, Graham and Martin. The outward leg via Great Wratting was a dream with only the occasional sideways gust reminding us of what we had in store on the return leg.

Having passed St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Kedington on many occasions, it was decided to stop on this ride and take a look inside what is commonly known as ‘The Westminster Abbey of Suffolk’, and we were not disappointed. The interior pays homage to the Barnardiston family, from the nearby hamlet of the same name, and is brimming with tombs of early family members, some of which are covered in graffiti dating back to the 1700s. (Some more recent graffiti includes the word Debbie but we didn’t see Deborah scratching away whilst we were there.)

The interior showing the elaborate roof structure and the Barnardiston family’s private pew, where they must have felt like caged animals at times.
Non-caged Windmillers admiring the wall paintings and roof.
A highlight was this 9th century Saxon Cross in fantastic condition on the windowsill above the alter, which once stood in the churchyard.

Moving on, it wasn’t long before Tarka’s Café came into view at Baythorne End – always a good place to stop for excellent coffee and oversized cakes.

As Group B was leaving the café who should be seen returning but poor Deborah whose Group A had shot off at speed and not waited for her at the first junction. She was warmly welcomed into the fold of Group B who wouldn’t dream of such behaviour.

The first section of the return leg was quite well sheltered by trees and hedges and so it was only on the exposed parts that we felt the full force of the 48mph / 48kph gusts, most probably the former judging by the speed of the cloud shadows whipping across the fields towards us.

The worst part by far was the stretch between West Wickham and the turning to West Wratting where it was tough going even pedalling downhill.

This is where we went:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/087f8bf646fde57ff428fc1217236473

All agreed back at the pub that it had been the windiest ever Windmill Club ride. But where was Sandra, someone was heard to say? She would have loved living up to her name of Storm Sandra.

It was great to have Geoff join us for lunch, which was brilliant as always. The Chestnut Tree never lets us down.

Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and to Charles and Brian for some of the photos, more of which are on The Windmill Club site on Google. Thanks also to Jeremy for the WWWWW inspiration.

Martin

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4 April. Hares and tortoises. 20 Miles.

It didn’t matter whether you were a hare or a tortoise, there was a great selection of beers on tap at The Red Cow in Chrishall after the ride, and some great chips too, specially cooked for the six Windmillers on this ride around the lanes.

Maurice, Graham and Sandra (the hares), Andrew, Simon and Martin (the tortoises) all set off together at 4.00pm but the hares eventually charged ahead whilst the tortoises pootled along planning their forthcoming French ride, amongst other things, and how to avoid the strong wind on the return leg.

This was the planned route, taken by the hares:

https://www.mapometer.com/embed/25e1cba6484da49cc78b8e384c3e3824

After a very pleasant anti-clockwise circuit via Great Chishill, Nuthampsted, Anstey, Brent Pelham and Starlings Green, the tortoises had other plans shortly after passing Poppy’s Barn when they decided to take the Roman Road byway to Coopers End, and to then rejoin the route at Duddenhoe End. Despite the recent rain this turned out to be a very pleasant route on a good surface of road planings but with a ford to cross at one point, so best done after a spell of dry weather.

Simon and Andrew admiring the primroses at Coopers End.

Back at The Red Cow, Graham peeled off, having been on the road for the best part of 4 hours, leaving the others to have a beer and tuck into the excellent chips.

Thanks, Maurice, for planning the ride and chips, and Andrew for getting us to the starting line. 4.00pm seems to be a popular time to start Monday rides and so we’re hoping for a good gathering on future Mondays now that the weather is improving. All we need now is less wind.

Martin

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Blue Ball, Grantchester Cambridge

A tour of Cambridge

Overnight snow showers put paid to Maurice’s planned outing but, come lunchtime, the snow had melted away, prompting Brian to issue an open invitation. Would anyone be interested in joining him for a lunchtime ride around Cambridge? No fewer than eight Windmillers turned up at his place in Shelford and, after a quick coffee, we set off for a tour of the town.

Setting off from Shelford, Jeremy on the newest bike, followed by Ric on the oldest

Brian led the way along the DNA cycleway to Cambridge Station and on over the Tony Carter Cycle Bridge. Named after a councillor of the day and opened in 1989, this was listed for a time in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest covered cycle bridge, lofting riders high over the railway. The only downside is its greenhouse-like design; it does get stiflingly hot in summer.

Then it was on to the Chisholm Trail, the newly opened £21 million cycling route across Cambridge, the highlight of which is a gleaming new, 40 meter long bridge spanning the river.

Graham and Martin at the newly opened cycle and footbridge across the Cam – with the old rail bridge in the background

Next we paused for a photograph by the swift tower on Logan’s Meadow. Combining conservation and public art, it’s meant to look like a pixelated African sunset (Cambridge, eh?) and, on closer inspection you can see it contains dozens of swift and bat nesting boxes.

Posing in front of the swift tower – in the distance on the left

Crossing Jesus Green, we wound our way through the town centre, past Trinity College and the tourist tat shops, before re-crossing the river and heading for Newnham and thence Grantchester, the murder capital of East Anglia; if you watch the eponymous BBC drama series you’ll know what I mean.

By Trinity College

It was in Grantchester that we pulled in at The Blue Ball for lunch, a couple of beers and, if Deborah had had her way, a traditional pub game. Her curiosity had been piqued by the large ring slung from a rope attached to the ceiling and, but for the timely intervention of the landlady, she would have swung it with gusto over the heads of anxious diners. However, Ringing the Bull is best played in an empty bar and, thankfully, we will never know whether the club insurance would have paid out for third party pub injuries.

Back on the bikes, it was a short return leg – via Hauxton – to Shelford.

17 miles anticlockwise from Great Shelford

For the record Brian, Deborah, Graham, Jeremy, Martin, Ric, Sandra, Victor clocked up a respectable 17 miles.

Brian

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24 March. Glorious spring non-Covid ride. 32 miles.

Essex put on its finest Spring clothes for 11 negative (so to speak) Windmillers who assembled at The Cock in Henham for a figure of 8 ride to Finchingfield and back. Covid was all around, with Simon unable to attend due to catching the dreaded lurgy, and Martin said a plague had descended on his house, thanks to snotty nosed grandchildren rushing about whilst currently residing in his house. He was positively negative but this didn’t stop Windmillers keeping a safe distance from him, understandably. And both Graham and Charles had reported large dollops of family / friends with Covid, which seems to indicate we’ll all follow in the pioneering footsteps of Brian and Roger sooner or later.

Having assembled to order lunch beforehand, Maurice led the way followed by Ric, Sandra, Nigel and Ken. Then a few minutes later, Andrew, Roger, Deborah, Howard, Jeremy and Martin set off at a more steady pace.

Determined to keep his distance from any would-be Covid carriers, or possibly wanting to compete with Charles for the 2022 sartorial sock award, Andrew donned some ferociously worded socks and produced a V sign to anyone who got close, particularly Martin.

No social distancing on the photographer’s part, nor by Jeremy.
Andrew’s Covid-precaution measure during coffee in Finchingfield

Maurice’s route took us through lovely quiet lanes where the early onset of Spring could be enjoyed – hedgerows bursting with growth, daffoldils everywhere, cherry blossom on show and even fields of oilseed rape starting to turn yellow. Maybe there’s a shock in store for all that foliage, not to mention the birds who seem hell bent on mating and building nests?

The obligatory stop to pay homage to Great Bardfield windmill
St Katherine’s Church in Little Bardfield, a jewel of a Grade 1 listed church tucked away down a lane and containing the newly-restored 1688 Renatus Harris organ, the most significant historic organ in Essex.
Cherry blossom in Great Bardfield

Andrew was socially distancing on the return leg, Martin was stopping to snap away and so various routes were taken on the way back. Andrew whizzed by the junction in Thaxted but realised his error and U-turned whilst Martin who followed on a few minutes later opted for a shorter route back to Henham and got there before the rest of the group, clocking up the shortest distance of the day of 29 miles. The longest ride of the day was achieved by Ric who cycled from Harston, clocking up around 70 miles in all. Well done Ric!

Tucking in at The Cock

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

Martin

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28 March. Axe and Compasses axed by fire. 20 miles.

News of the tragic fire which destroyed the Grade 2 listed Axe and Compasses pub in Arkesden began to circulate shortly after 11.45am on 27 March, just before 150 diners were due to celebrate Mother’s Day. Popular with Windmillers, both as a stopping point whilst on a ride and for meals with family and friends, the pub will be sorely missed by many people. The moussaka was legendary – how far do we have to go now to enjoy such good minced lamb, aubergines and tomatoes with a cheese sauce on top?

It was therefore appropriate for seven Windmillers to pay their respects, namely Maurice, Andrew, Sandra, Simon, Charles, Graham and Martin, who started the ride at The Red Cow in Chrishall before passing through Arkesden.

Ten fire engines arrived from Saffron Walden, Newport and Stansted to tackle the blaze but were unable to save the building due to the rapid spread of the fire through a thatched roof. Only part of the building remained, on the right hand side, but this was severely damaged by water penetration. Our sympathies go to the Christou family who have run the pub for over 30 years, dishing up several tons of moussaka during that time.

Moving on through Clavering and Starlings Green it wasn’t long before we took a left down Violets Lane and through the remains of some thick mud before heading towards Brent Pelham, only to find our path blocked by a huge sludge lorry attempting to head towards us. Quite how he was planning to attempt the corner at Violets Lane, we didn’t stop to enquire but we managed to just squeeze past. All became clear when we then came across what must be a record jam of sludge lorries in Hertfordshire – not just one but seven in total!

Windmillers take the field edge by-pass to get round the sludge lorries. Luckily, not a car in sight.
Left or right of the lorry ahead? Decisions decisions.
Graham keeping his distance from a lorry load of sludge. William Gilder specialise in shifting nasty smelling stuff and were most probably connecting their lorries up to the pipe on the left to discharge bio-waste / slurry on to the adjacent field.

Writing about sludge brings back memories of an awful Limerick once heard about sewage:

There once was a man named McBride.
Who fell in the sewer and died.
The same day his brother
Fell in another,
And they were interred side by side.

(Love the last line!)

Back at The Red Cow, Andrew and Graham headed back home, Graham having been on the road since 2.00pm when he was spotted on Coploe Hill by Martin, who was tending his allotment. Graham was followed by Andrew, leaving the remaining five to have a drink and a laugh. And thanks to Charles for buying a round of drinks, and for some of the photos.

Thanks to Maurice as always for organising a pleasant route and Andrew for his organisation.

This is where we went:

Martin

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Braughing Therfield

A low key St Patrick’s Day

It was a St Patrick’s Day outing so, by rights, Brian our resident Irishman should have been wearing green and buying the Guinness. Alas, he forgot to wear green – and he kept pretty quiet about the Guinness. Nevertheless, we were cheered by the prospect of free beer at lunchtime, courtesy of Roger, this week’s birthday boy.

It was a glorious spring morning with daffodils and blossom much in evidence as thirteen Windmillers set out from Therfield for a 30 mile tour of NE Herts. The gang comprised Alan, Andrew, Brian, Deborah, Graham, Howard, Ken, Maurice, Nigel, Ric, Roger, Sandra and Tom. Apologies / cast iron excuses had been tendered by Simon (covid), Martin (skiing) and Rod (Australia).

Ken, Roger and Graham at Cromer Mill

Mid-way around, we pulled in at Braughing where Jess opened up the Fleece specially for us and served coffee and cake in the garden.

Tom, Deborah, Sandra, Maurice and Nigel on top of the world

Back on the bikes we took the return leg at quite a lick, spurred on by the prospect of free beer. We were delighted to find Suzanne waiting for us at the pub; having cycled from Abington she was just as thirsty as the rest of us. But thirstiest of all were Graham and Victor who had also cycled from home, then done the 30 mile circuit and had yet to make the return journey. Well done, all

Ken, Howard, Graham, Tom and birthday boy Roger
Ric, Sandra, Maurice, Nigel, Suzanne and Victor

Thanks are due to Maurice and Andrew for getting everyone organised, plus, of course, Roger: thanks and happy birthday!

Brian

30 miles anticlockwise: Therfield – Kelshall – Sandon – Rushden – Ardeley – Great Munsden – Puckeridge – Braughing – Dassels – Great Hormead – Nuthampstead – Barkway – Reed – Therfield
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Pig & Abbot

Happy Birthday, Maurice!

It’s a tricky time of year for the fashion conscious Windmiller. What’s one to wear on these between-the-seasons outings? With the exception of Victor, most agree it’s a little early for shorts and opt to retain winter leggings and layers. But then there’s Simon who, disdainful of cyclewear, nails it with white cotton twill shirt, cashmere cardigan and flannel trousers, making the rest of us look positively dowdy.

Deborah, Sandra, fashion influencer Simon, Alan and Geoff

So it was that Thursday morning saw the Windmillers heading out from the Pig & Abbot in various states of attire. Fuelled up on landlady Pat’s coffee and biscuits, Maurice, Charles, Howard Ric and Victor set off at a cracking pace, followed some five minutes later by Brian, Alan, Deborah, Geoff, Sandra and Simon.

Lounging around at Cockayne Hatley: Howard, Maurice, Ric and Victor

Seventeen miles in, we were eager to top up our caffeine and sugar levels and pulled in for coffee and cake at Waresley.

Stop pointing that bloody phone at me, Charles!
Simon making friends with the local wildlife

Back on the bikes, we headed for Great Gransden before turning south for the the return leg to Abington Pigotts.

Arriving at the Pig & Abbot, we were delighted to be joined by Lawrence. Birthday boy, Maurice bought the beers and we settled down to enjoy Pat’s excellent pies and the beer is excellent, especially when Maurice is buying.

Happy Birthday, Maurice!
30 miles clockwise: Abington Pigotts, Guilden Morden, Wrestlingworth, Cockayne Hatley, Potton, Waresley, The Gransdens, Hatley St George, Wendy, Shingay, Abington Pigotts

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice for the route – and the beer. Also Charles and Simon for the photographs; there’s many more here in the club album.

Brian

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Spring is Sprung…..

……. And the grass is riz
(I wonder where the birdies is ?)

After last week’s abandonment due to the threatened bad weather and the waterlogged roads (which still didn’t deter three Windmillers from taking to their bikes and it certainly didn’t deter the many more that turned up at the Cock Inn for lunch ! – I digress), it was business as usual this week. Maurice had laid on gorgeous spring weather for a jaunt round the quiet lanes of Suffolk.

Maurice, Howard, Sandra, Simon (recently returned from Tenerife), Jeremy, Tom, Geoff, Victor, Alan, Sandra and Charles pitched up at the ever welcoming Plough at Rede for coffee and to place food orders.

Simon back from Tenerife and ready to take up the yoke.

Graham turned up a few minutes after the scheduled start time complaining about bike mechanical issues and relieved that the team had waited for him before heading off.

Pre ride coffee

The route passed mainly without incident except for Tom, cycling with the last group, who suffered a speedily repaired front wheel puncture on the normally traffic free road to Somerton.

Tom rapidly repairs his puncture

On this occasion we were passed by a couple of horse riders and a highly amused delivery driver who reported on having just passed our colleagues ahead, puffing and blowing loudly on Hartest Hill. To be fair, Hartest Hill is reputedly the steepest hill in Suffolk with sections of 12% gradient.

Hartest Hill

Easy riding from there to Lavenham, famous to all Harry Potter fans as the setting for Godric’s Hollow in the films. No coffee here, though. Instead it was back to the lanes with a gentle breeze now behind us in glorious sunshine to the Rushbrook Arms. Here the majority partook of coffees in the late morning warmth (only one taker for beer, who shall remain nameless).

Coffee in the Spring Sunshine

Alms houses, Hawstead

The last short delightful section took us back to Rede and a warm welcome for lunch and ales. Lets hope for more Spring days like this one.

..and here’s the route
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Uncategorized

17 February. The lull between Dudley and Eunice. 26 – 31 miles.

Storms Dudley and Eunice had a truce on 17 February but Eunice was declared the victor after a ferocious attack on houses and trees the following day when record gusts of wind were recorded. Even so, the lull was still expected to produce winds of 38mph and so at the last minute the management decided to shorten the route. It was therefore most appropriate that we would be riding through:

The rivers were already full (that’s Barwick Ford in the featured photo above which some brave Windmillers often cycle through) and so there was potentially an interesting ride ahead, starting from The Golden Fleece in Braughing.

Fourteen Windmillers gathered together at 9.00am to place their orders for lunch before departing ahead of schedule, the last group leaving at 9.25am. Perhaps the thought of game stew and dumplings at lunch was already producing hunger pangs for some.

Maurice was the first to whizz off with his group A of 5 followed by Andrew’s group B of 4 and finally Brian’s group C of 5. The route was a clockwise circuit taking in Puckeridge, Barwick Ford, Ware, Hertford, Sacombe Park and back to Puckeridge, except for Martin and Graham who chose a longer route (or so they claimed) via Westmill, Buntingford and Hare Street to clock up 31 miles in all. (In fact, it was a major navigational error by Martin, having stopped to take the Nasty photo above, so he’s already in the running for the annual got lost award normally won by Simon).

Despite the change of plan, the lanes were pleasantly quiet and sheltered and so there really was a lull between storms Dudley and Eunice.

Hazel, Roger, Martin and Graham take the high road across Barwick Ford
Fanham’s Hall in Wareside brought back happy memories for Hazel who attended management training courses there whilst working for Sainsbury’s. It is an 18th-century Queen Anne House-style country house and is Grade II* listed, now operating as a hotel. The interior is decorated in the Arts and Crafts style with plasterwork by L A Turner and stained glass by Morris and Co. in the library. A former owner Lady Brocket had a keen interest in horticulture and influenced the employment of Japanese gardeners to create the Hall’s formal gardens. Her ornamental lakes and choice of trees (such as Japanese maples) can still be seen in the present-day formal grounds, as can the “Fuji-yama Mound” which was built with earth from the Hall’s lakes.[1]The garden is listed grade II on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The grounds are open to the public and groups of visitors welcomed, even sweaty Windmillers some time in the future. Could be a good base for a ride or coffee stop?

Stopping for coffee in Ware was very pleasant, as usual, most choosing to sit inside to warm up a bit. Andrew was left out in the cold, however, on account of his Covid avoidance measures prior to departing on a cruise around the Caribbean.

The return leg was initially Cycle Route no. 61 along the towpath of the River Lee towards Hertford which is always a delight, but quite busy with pedestrians so care was needed.

Navigating through the meadows after Hertford Lock took some doing for Group C, and maybe the others too, due to the bridge towards Bengeo Hall being closed but a quick U-turn soon had the group heading in the right direction. Once out of Hertford the traffic eased and we were alone in Sacombe Park before heading to Dane End and Great Munden, where a pal of Maurice owns the village church. Maurice’s pals seem to own large chunks of Hertfordshire.

The Nasty experience was fine for everyone except Martin and Graham who arrived for lunch to find Group A had already finished and Group B were half way through. However, there was still plenty of game stew and dumplings left which was voted extremely good by those who had it.

Martin and Graham arriving slightly late for lunch
Empty plates in evidence for Group A (Hazel and Roger from Group C waiting patiently for their lunch to arrive)
We even had our own Court Jester to entertain us.

Thanks to the management team of Maurice and Andrew for organising and amending the ride to 26 miles at short notice (but only Martin and Graham achieved the usual 30 miles or so, unintentionally.) Thanks also to photographers, Brian, Charles and Deborah.

Martin

PS. This is what Eunice did to Martin’s beloved walnut tree the following day. Deborah and Jenni stopped by to take a look.

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Uncategorized

10 February. Five star ride. 31 miles.

Unable to fill up with Five Star at Baythorn End, despite Andrew trying to squeeze the last drop from the pipe, this group didn’t give up. They tried yet again in Kedington but neither pump would oblige and so there was nothing for it but to keep pedalling into the wind on the return leg to West Wratting.

Ric and Victor tried their hardest but Five Star had run out here too

Setting out earlier after meeting at 9.00am for coffee at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting and placing the all important lunch order, 15 Windmillers rode forth on an anticlockwise circuit of lanes in three Counties – Cambs., Essex and Suffolk – and what glorious lanes they were too. Maurice led the way for group A with Rod, Alan, Howard and Ken in tow, followed by Andrew leading Group B with Victor, Ric, Roger and Martin, and finally Brian leading Group C with Deborah, Graham, Geoff and Charles – five star riders in each group.

‘Now, what would you like to order for lunch, Sir? Sorry, haggis is off.’

This is where we went:

‘Hey! Wait for me.’

The weather was kind on the whole, a bit overcast but blue skies at times and, most importantly, dry. Not bad for early February. The coffee stop was at Baythorn End where we were greeted warmly, as usual, and served good coffee and cakes by the efficient staff – always worth the risk of being run over by a large lorry on the short stretch of the A1017 which is needed to get there.

The return leg took us around the north of Haverhill, thank the Lord, taking in the pretty village of Kedington with its rather ungainly looking church of St Peter and St Paul, but inside it houses a magnificent array of treasures:

The ungainly looking church of St Peter and St Paul in Kedington is one of the historical treasures of East Anglia, virtually untouched by the Victorians and stuffed full of fantastic monuments to the Barnardistons who were Lords of the Manor from 13th century until 1745.
There are many family box pews, the most elaborate being the manorial pew of the Barnardistons dating back to around 1610. This is why it is known as the Westminster Abbey of Suffolk. Must pop in the next time we’re passing.

Charles’s rear facing camera was busy clicking away and so it’s always best to be polite and keep a smile on one’s face whilst following him – clearly designed primarily to snap any offending motorist. We should all have one!

Back at The Chestnut Tree, big helpings of everything from Maurice’s favourite grilled salmon to ham, double egg and chips (with a field mushroom, but not sure where those come from this time of year), washed down with excellent ales, created a degree of contentment hard to equal anywhere.

Thanks again to Maurice and Andrew for organising another ride from The Chestnut Tree, to Charles for some of the photos and, of course, to everyone who took part.

Martin

Categories
Ridgewell Suffolk

All’s well at Ridgewell

Glad to say, absolutely nothing untoward happened on this week’s Thursday outing; no thrills, spills, punctures, nor indeed, helpings of haggis – it was just a very pleasant 32 mile ride in the company of Andrew, Brian, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Maurice, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Tom and Victor; some twelve Windmillers in all.

Sandra and Tom getting their caffeine fix

Starting and finishing at White Horse Inn, Ridgewell, Maurice had led the way, via Stoke by Clare and Hundon, to Stradishall, before turning eastwards to Hawkedon and on to Rede, where we pulled in for refreshment at The Plough.

Then it was on southwards to Glemsford and Cavendish from where we took a delightfully quiet – and new to us – minor road bypassing Clare, before returning to Ridgewell for lunch. All in all, a grand day out!

The Three Amigos: Roger, Andrew and Geoff

Thanks, as ever to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising everything; also to Charles for the many photos – too many to include here – but check them out in the club album.

32 miles clockwise from Ridgewell

Brian

PS Maurice reports our charity collection so far this year stands at £633; a flying start to 2022. Well done, all!

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Uncategorized

Tally Ho! 20 miles

The Tally Ho! in Barkway was the beginning and end of this ride for 9 Windmillers who set out around familiar lanes, at the later start time of 2.30pm which reflected the steadily longer days we now enjoy.

Maurice led the way followed by Alan, Charles, Graham (who all met up initially in Great Chishill, Nigel, Rod, Sandra, Jeremy and Martin. This is where we went:

Charles was in his element snapping away at every opportunity, and even has a rear facing camera to ensure there is no misbehaving going on behind him:

This was an uneventful, pleasant ride on quiet roads with only a Red Kite for company at one stage as it cruised alongside us urging us to speed up a bit. Could it have been the same bird that nicked a golf ball from the fairway of the 10th hole on Royston golf course recently, belonging to one of Rod’s friends, we wondered?

Charles and Alan peeled off at Barkway Golf Club leaving those stalwarts in the photo above to perch on stools in the Tally Ho! and swap stories in front of the roaring fire – a very good end to a very good ride.

Thanks to Maurice for planning the ride, absent Andrew for organising us and of course our photographer Charles.

Martin

Categories
Pig & Abbot

Haggis – and a tumble

Thursday’s ride was a memorable one for Hazel as, just a few miles short of the finish she took a tumble, sustaining some painful cuts and bruises, not to mention torn cyclewear and a damaged bike.

Hazel, before her involutary dismount

The mishap, at a tight bend on a quiet road, was most likely due to diesel spillage, a well documented hazard for cyclists and motorcyclists alike, and one we have experienced before; indeed, some of you may remember Chris suffered similarly, and at virtually the same spot, some three years ago.

We are glad to hear Hazel, while still feeling somewhat the worse for wear, is on the mend and we look forward to her joining us again soon.

A murky start to the morning

Confounding the forecast of fine weather, it was a fine drizzle that saw us heading out earlier from Abington Pigotts, a drizzle that stayed with us all the way to our refreshment stop at Waresley. Drying out over coffee and cake, some swapped stories of Burns Night suppers while others lamented they had never even tried haggis. Well today was their big chance.

Who’s for some Scottish offal?

The return leg was thankfully dry and sunny. Back at the Pig & Abbot we enjoyed a restorative pint before, summoned to our table, landlady Pat presented a magnificent haggis, prompting Andrew, our resident Scot, to rise and launch into – not just one – but all eight verses of Rabbie Burns’ Address to a Haggis. Mid-way through, and proclaiming, “An cut you up . . . trenching your gushing entrails bright” he waved a knife alarmingly close to Ken’s nose before slicing the beast open to rapturous applause, while across the pub vegans cowered into their nut roasts.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face

For the record, Thursday’s turnout was thirteen Windmillers, namely: Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Maurice, Rod and Sandra

30 miles anticlockwise from Abington Pigotts

A special thanks to Maurice for scooping up Hazel and her bike after the accident and ferrying both home.


Address to a Haggis, by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race! 
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 
Painch, tripe, or thairm : 
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace 
As lang's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill, 
Your hurdies like a distant hill, 
Your pin wad help to mend a mill 
In time o'need, 
While thro' your pores the dews distil 
Like amber bead. 

His knife see rustic Labour dight, 
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight, 
Trenching your gushing entrails bright, 
Like ony ditch; 
And then, O what a glorious sight, 
Warm-reekin', rich! 

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive: 
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive, 
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve 
Are bent like drums; 
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive, 
Bethankit! hums. 

Is there that owre his French ragout 
Or olio that wad staw a sow, 
Or fricassee wad make her spew 
Wi' perfect sconner, 
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view 
On sic a dinner? 

Poor devil! see him owre his trash, 
As feckless as wither'd rash, 
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash; 
His nieve a nit; 
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash, 
O how unfit! 

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, 
The trembling earth resounds his tread. 
Clap in his walie nieve a blade, 
He'll mak it whissle; 
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned, 
Like taps o' thrissle. 

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care, 
And dish them out their bill o' fare, 
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware 
That jaups in luggies; 
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer 
Gie her a haggis! 
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race
Categories
Therfield

Pedal bikes, e-bikes, motorbikes and classic cars

A frosty start to Thursday morning prompted Andrew – very wisely – to delay the start of our outing, so it was nigh on 10 o’clock before the Windmillers were seen heading out from the Fox & Duck for a tour of the hills to the south and east of Therfield.

Pedal bikes, e-bikes . . .
. . . and motorbikes

The highlight of our ride was the refreshment stop at Heath Farm, where Maurice and Lyn had laid on coffee and hot cross buns. Plus, of course, it’s always interesting touring the barns to view Maurice’s collection of classic cars and engineering projects – the latest of which is a motorbike engine conversion. Owning not one, but two 1957 Douglas Dragonflies, he has replaced one of the original 350cc flat twins with a 400cc, four cylinder Honda engine. The man never sleeps! Indeed, word having got around about this latest job, the editor of Classic Bike Magazine will be visiting tomorrow to interview Maurice and take pictures of the Dragonflies.

Not just one Douglas Dragonfly, but two! This nearer one with a 1976 400cc Honda engine

The petrolheads among us were also very taken with the Aston Martin DB5 Vantage engine slung in chains from the roof beams. All fuelled up and ready to roar, it would have been good to see it start up. However, lacking a silencer, we feared for our eardrums.

Admiring the DB5 beast

Thanking Lyn for the hospitality, we resumed our ride, heading for Nuthampstead – where we tipped our hats to John Tarrington – and thence Buntingford, before turning northwards for the return leg to Therfield.

At 24 miles, our route was somewhat shorter than usual but, given the late start, low temperatures and hilly terrain, not to mention the promise of free beer courtesy of birthday boy Brian, we were looking forward to returning to the – hopefully warm – embrace of the Fox & Duck. Alas, the heating had failed and the place was decidedly chilly, so chilly indeed that we asked to move tables; not that that made much difference.

24 miles anticlockwise from Therfield

But our lunch was good and we followed up with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday for Brian.

Happy Birthday, Brian

For the record, our turnout of eleven Windmillers comprised: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jeremy, Maurice, Rod, Sandra and Victor – plus Ken and Ann who had cycled out from Ickleton to join us for lunch.

Warm thanks are due to Maurice and Lyn for their hospitality at Heath Farm – the coffee and hot cross buns went down a treat. Also to Andrew for getting us all organised, as well as Howard for the photograph in the pub.

Could be our new club motto?
Categories
Ridgewell Suffolk

Eating well at Ridgewell

Two years on from our last visit, it was high time for a return to Ridgewell and The White Horse where, opening up early, the landlord welcomed us with coffee and took our orders for lunch.

So it was that eleven Windmillers set off from the pub, in some trepidation it must be said, given the mercury was barely above freezing and, to heighten our concern, within half a mile we encountered Graham coming the other way. Cycling out to join us, had been delayed by the icy roads. Oo-er, let’s take it steady, was the general consensus.

Le Grand Depart

That said, it was one of those sparkling, blue sky mornings and, wrapped up against the cold, it felt good to be alive, at least until the next patch of ice.

Eighteen miles in, and pulling up at The Blue Egg for refreshments, there was by now sufficient warmth in the sun for us to enjoy our coffee al fresco.

The return leg was just as lovely – and thankfully uneventful – as all riders returned intact and looking forward to a good lunch.

Back at the pub, we were delighted to be joined by Ken who, hearing rumours of free beer, had leapt in his car and driven across county lines to join us.

It was indeed Martin’s birthday and, toasting his health, we gave a stirring rendition of Happy Birthday before settling down to an excellent lunch. All agreed, the White Horse food was really very good and, at £11.95 for two courses, remarkable value to boot.

Lunching at the White Horse
Many happy returns, Martin
29 miles anticlockwise from Ridgewell

For the record, our team roster was Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Martin, Maurice, Roger, Sandra and Victor; plus Ken in civvies.

Thanks, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for organising another lovely outing – and to the landlord of The White Horse for his hospitality; we shall return soon.

Thanks also Charles, Deborah, Graham, Martin and Victor for the many photographs; too many to include here but you can check them out in the club album.

Check out also our last visit to Ridgewell back in November, 2019.

Brian