The good thing about lockdown is that it brings out Windmillers in their droves to keep fit and remain sane. And our charity box fills up handsomely as a result. As Charles put it so eloquently on WhatsApp, he saw lots of b–st-rds on the circuit – a possible record for a Monday with 16 Windmillers taking part.
Mind you, after the terrible weather of late who wouldn’t want to jump on a bike and enjoy almost Spring-like conditions? Grab the opportunity whilst you can seemed to be the order of the day.
Simon very kindly hosted the charity box and was just about to set off at 12.30pm when Suzanne and Martin arrived having cycled from Abington and Ickleton, meeting Julia on the way who shot up Coploe Hill like greased lightning. After an inspection of Simon’s impressive raised asparagus beds which he had been mending that morning, Andrew then arrived and they set off in an AC direction using the same route as the week before. Others taking part were Maurice, Rod, Geoff, Graham, Victor, Brian, Deborah, Jenni, Lawrence and Alan.
This is where we went:
Martin and Suzanne set off in a C direction and it wasn’t long before they came across the stationary figure of Rod at the bottom of Hill Bastardo furiously pumping air into his rear tyre due to a slow puncture. Removing the rear wheel of his e-bike was not something he would relish and after some discussion he decided to carry on up the hill and to review the situation at Simon’s house, if he got there. Luckily for him, rescue man Maurice was not far behind who caught him up at Simon’s and proceeded to inject some kind of super sealant mixed with Propane into the tyre, ensuring no sparks were created, and this did the trick. Zefal is the name of the magic potion apparently. Just as well it didn’t explode as Rocket Rod could be on the moon by now.
Cruising around the lanes at a leisurely pace was very pleasant, and a reminder that the weather is kind to us most of the time. It’s probably also fed up with lockdown and likes to blow it’s top every now and again.
Brian and Victor, on the other hand, were clearly setting out to break records having reported cycling so fast, heads down, that they whizzed straight past Simon’s house. They clocked up 35 miles having started from Stapleford / Shelford and saw Rod, Maurice, Charles and Julia on their AC circuit. No doubt Graham clocked up a huge distance too and Suzanne would also have done around 40 miles. Well done to all the long distance travellers.
Simon reported that £75 was collected but this should swell once some dues are settled on the next ride.
Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for their organisation of the ride.
On the whole the weather has not been very kind to us so far in January and today was no exception, despite the ride being postponed from the day before when it was truly awful. At least it wasn’t raining but on the other hand the heavy rain of the 14th caused river levels to rise and flood the roads badly around Hinxton, resulting in U-turns by some Windmillers and cold wet feet for others. The lucky ones escaped with a diversion to the main road between Ickleton and Duxford, thanks to WhatApp pinging away.
It was also very cold as 15 Windmillers ventured out at various times from 9.30am onwards to avoid mingling and to obey the rules, and it worked out well. Barista Lawrence (more anon) very kindly hosted the charity box again which received visits from Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Mike, Ken, Brian, Jeremy (a friend of Brian’s), Rod, Alan, Roger, Charles and Martin.
Hello Simon! Hello Charles! It’s funny how one’s vision plays tricks when there are many other cyclists on the road. How do you spot a Windmiller charging towards you if he/she is not displaying a toy windmill provided specifically for that purpose last year? Before reaching Duxford Martin was convinced he saw Simon in his usual summer gear and then he swore he saw some stripey socks on the chap riding behind Deborah in Whittlesford but his cheery hellos got no responses, just looks of ‘who is this nutter?’. But it was Deborah in Whittlesford, wasn’t it? If not, it was another lovely lady who smiled. A later report from Graham confirmed it was definitely not Simon because, adding on a few extra miles at the end of his ride, he was surprised to come across Simon near Wenden Lofts, just a wee bit off route……..
By taking the Ickleton to Duxford Road, going AC, little did Martin realise the carnage going on just half a mile away across the flooded meadows. Brian and Jeremy had forgotten their swimming trunks, otherwise they might have combined their bikes into a pedalo to traverse the first flood leading towards Hinxton, and so they U-turned and continued to Ickleton on the main road. Graham, Mike and Alan meanwhile tackled the flood on the Ickleton side of Hinxton, also going AC, and got through even though it was ankle deep at times on the pedals. Luckily they were not swept downstream but Mike got very wet and eventually retired in Thriplow with feet so cold they could not turn the pedals.
Here are the dilemmas they faced:
Howling like wolves in the tunnel under the M11 at Little Shelford, Martin and Andrew stopped for a chat. Andrew confessed that he had two punctures already that week in his beloved Schwalbe Marathons and so he’s already in the running for the puncture prize 2021 barely two weeks in. He blamed long thorns from recent hedgecutting, which is indeed a nuisance this time of year.
Another encounter took place near Thriplow when Brian and Jeremy told of their earlier experience in Hinxton and it was good to see Geoff too coming up behind, pleased that his e-bike is now behaving itself.
The coffee stop rules at Lawrence’s were obeyed to the letter when Martin arrived. No one was around and so he selected a garden chair to stretch out and soak up what little sun there was and to drink his coffee. It wasn’t long, however, before the patron himself arrived and offered a proper coffee which was accepted by Roger who arrived too. Barista Lawrence duly went indoors, got out his coffee making gear and after much steam generation and hissing he delivered a fine looking brew at the take away window.
Lawrence reported that the local water table had risen to a level not seen for many years, the proof of which was to be found in a ditch between Fowlmere and the A505. For the benefit of this historic occasion a stop had to be made at said ditch:
After Chrishall Grange Roger and Martin went their separate ways. Just before Ickleton Martin heard a whooshing of tyres behind him, clearly someone coming up fast, and of course it turned out to be Graham who had been half way round the world already that day. Well done, Graham , you’re clearly out to beat your 2020 record.
Thanks to Maurice and Andrew once again for their organisation, to all those who took photos and to Graham for the previous evening’s Zoom meeting (but not well attended probably due to no ride that ride). We raised £80 according to Lawrence, including accounts receivable.
I know corona virus is all around us, but these are not tough days, these are challenging days. These are some of the most challenging days we have ever known. The challenge of course is to stay fit and sane, so that you are ready for when things finally perk up. Think warm spring sunshine, a pint in one hand. You know you can do it, take it one day at a time.
From Littlebury Green I set off clockwise up the hill heading for the Royston road. I needed a breather by the time I got to the radio-tower at the top of the hill. Too much turkey and Christmas pud I suppose. I took a photo and thought, ‘I wonder why those aerials are all different shapes. I bet there are people for whom that is fascinating’. And sure, enough there are fans of radio-towers. You can buy a list of them or download the android app (mastdata), then visit them and tick them off. There are 2342 authentic ones around the country and websites for enthusiasts who add annotated photos and leave comments. I have included one such here.
LTE is ‘long term evolution’ for the uninitiated, a step in our journey to 5G. My wife didn’t find anything about this surprising. She simply said, ‘I know, I have dated men like than’.
The route was like this:
It’s always a relief to encounter fellow club members on the ride. It means you have got the right day, no mean feat during lock-down. And that you are on the right route, very reassuring when you are as bad at routes as me. I was well into the ride and feeling pigeon poetry coming on before meeting Alan. Very soon Julia and Graham past me. A little later Lawrence and I cycled on, within the rules, for much of the rest of the trip.
Both Rod and Lawrence had close encounters with lorries carrying straw, which are a common hazard this time of year. Either they cover the road with slimy straw or retain some of it on their trailers and push you off the road instead. Likewise, Andrew had the customary 4 by 4 encounter.
Just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean it’s safe of course.
Club members were able to avail themselves of a new charity box. We raised £60 which I think is commendable for a cold Monday.
We received doctor’s notes to be excused ‘physical education’ from Deborah, who planned to ride but was too tired after Samaritan’s work in the night and Martin with a case of digging-man’s-back. Brian had a good long ride which only overlapped with ours for a very few miles. Those attending in a more conventional sense were Andrew, Rod, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Alan, Lawrence, Maurice. It was a great pleasure to see you all and to know that you are all up for the ‘I’ll still be here after this bloody virus’ challenge.
Since I know some of you are parents with ‘returning’ off-spring I thought I would share with you the following story. It started with a mystery. My son who lives in the other half of the house, beyond the conservatory, would walk through into the main house, use the facilities then return to his domain. Puzzled I eventually enquired why, since there is a bathroom and toilet in his self-contained area. The reply was, ‘well sometimes it smells, and I am working all the time over there’. Yes, I thought that’s why you are an economist. That’s the way most big businesses behave.
Next Thursday’s ride will be on Friday. As if I weren’t already sufficiently disorientated. By way of retaliation I finish with more pigeon poetry, which various club members have assured me is indeed, very bad. Well here you go, you deserve it.
Pigeon. Early life and career.
I grew up in the North with green fields aplenty And won my first race by the time I was twenty Talented they said, contact a pigeon fancier With wind in my ears what I heard was ‘financier’
To London I went, fine place for a young pigeon So much money to make, no time for religion With pigeons of all types, race was no barrier Did business with fantails, homing and carrier
I know making money is a pursuit sometimes vulgar Still they built me a tall perch in a square called Trafalgar With grey sky above me, some dreary Admiral below Doing business was easy for this bird in the know
They came crying help! for my business is blighted You’re a smart pigeon, so clever, farsighted Being able to see things from great elevation I got rich doing deals between business and nation
I retired to Essex where the sky is much bluer With big fields of grain and where people are fewer Enjoying apple buds in the spring and grain in the fall Being a healthy old pigeon is no trouble at all
‘How many layers are you wearing?’ was the topic of many a conversation on this very cold day. Forecasted to be -1C but in practice around +0.5C and with talk of icy roads, it was a relief to find the only ice was on Lawrence’s windscreen in Fowlmere, with the mysterious words ‘Rev was here’ scrawled on it.
Despite the initial cold, 14 hardy Windmillers comprising Maurice, Andrew, Ken, Rod, Roger, Graham, Charles, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Lawrence and Martin turned out to do a CAC ride centred on Fowlmere and taking in Thriplow, Newton, Little Shelford, Ickleton and Chrishall Grange. Some did a variation of this route including Ken and Martin who decided to warm up first with a climb to Elmdon from Ickleton, requiring a strip off of one layer by Martin in Elmdon only to get cold again on the downhill stretch from Crawley End. Others took to the Duxford Grange Road to avoid the Ickleton to Chrishall Grange road which had reports of ice and puddles the day before but regretted having done so due to the aftermath of sugar beet lorries near Duxford Grange.
CAC rides are designed to avoid Windmillers congregating together and obeying the rules, which is generally the case. But for some reason, despite starting from different locations a large number descended on Lawrence’s house, where he was hosting the charity box, at around the same time. Perhaps it was the need to warm up a bit, but some realised it was time to get ‘on yer bike’ whilst others recognised the scale of the traffic jam and sensibly cycled on. At least Lawrence wasn’t there, which helped a bit.
The weather improved considerably after 11.00am, the sun emerged and most arrived home as warm as toast, if not warmer.
This was not a day for taking photos it seems, due to numb fingers. But Simon rode the same route the day before and has contributed the artistic masterpiece above (he has a great love of rusty old iron) and this one below, spotted somewhere en route:
And this is where most went:
An item of sad news was heard concerning Roger’s wife who was bitten badly by a dog over the Christmas period resulting in a trip to A&E in Stevenage and then being kept in the hospital for 4 days due to an infection. We wish her a continued recovery from the nasty incident.
Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the route, and to Graham for the evening’s Zoom session.
A goodly number – I reckon it was twelve Windmillers – turned out on the first Monday of 2021 to burn off their Christmas pudding. Riding either solo or in pairs, the roster included: Maurice, Andrew, Deborah, Jenni, Martin, Alan, Charles, Nick, Graham, Lawrence, Suzanne and Brian. Apologies if I have overlooked anyone; do let me know.
Maurice had devised a 23 mile circuit – with the charity box and a basket of beers tucked away on his driveway at Heath Farm – an ideal spot for our resident photographer to snap passing Windmillers.
Alas, it was much too cold for our photographer to linger longer in the hope of snapping further Windmillers and, saddling up, he was last seen heading up the hill to Barkway.
There was an element of competition in the outing: who could turn in the fastest time on the 7 mile section near Heath Farm? Multiple claims, counter claims and allegations – not to mention dodgy historical data (thanks, Sandra) – appeared on the club’s WhatsApp message board – and I, for one, can’t make head or tail of it. It will all be forwarded to the relevant authorities – British Cycling, WADA, Guinness Book of Records, etc – for validation.
Thanks as ever to Maurice for devising the route and providing the refreshments – and to Andrew for rousing us all off our sofas.
PS Lawrence, poor chap, lost his wallet somewhere between Barkway and Barley so, if anyone comes across it, please shout.
Remember this opening song by Millicent Martin for David Frost’s weekly satirical programme? (Apologies, BBC, for substituting Year for Week). It seems to sum up what we have endured in 2020.
But it did start well, didn’t it? Except for Brian who had two punctures, one in each wheel, on the first ride on 2nd January. There was also speculation that day as to what might lie in the year ahead – would Deborah buy some mudguards, would Andrew stop banging on about Schwalbe Marathons? Harmless stuff like that but no mention of what would hit the world later that month when the Corona virus started to spread in China, Italy and Austrian ski resorts. On 6th January, Rod had a nasty fall on a slippery road resulting in a cracked helmet and a bent bike but Sandra came to his rescue in her van and scooped him up. He was a bit bruised but luckily nothing else was broken. Brian’s birthday was celebrated on the 24th at The Black Bull in Balsham and on the 30th nine Windmillers inspected Nigel’s immaculate motorbike workshop and stuffed themselves silly on Sue’s buttered tea loaf and shortbread.
On 6th February we had a great turnout, as above, for a ride to Wimpole on a beautiful day. But it wasn’t long afterwards that storms Ciara and Dennis resulted in cancelled rides and the formation of the Windmill Dining Club to ensure we kept our local publicans happy.
It remained very wet, which was just a precursor of the real storm that was about to hit us hard, the dreaded Corona virus. By 12th March the virus was spreading rapidly, people were dying, stock markets were crashing, unemployment was rising, Andrew was self-isolating after an abandoned ski trip to Italy, and all this when we were meant to be celebrating Maurice’s birthday! But we carried on, not really knowing what was in store, and enjoyed a lovely Springwatch ride with Sandra on 16th March when her eagle eye spotted a barn owl, a large herd of deer including some Albinos and, God forbid, a strange looking hi-viz clad person ahead of us standing on a bank and coughing furiously. It turned out to be Andrew taking some exercise during his self isolation and so we gave him a wide berth.
And then on 19th March the bombshell hit us. No more rides! Hibernation time for The Windmill Club! Deaths galore! Panic buying! The end is nigh! Suddenly, we had to adapt, quickly, if we were to remain sane. Owing to the club being affiliated to Cycling UK, the first thing was to stop organising group rides. But exercise outdoors was allowed and so Windmillers continued to ride individually and occasionally we bumped into each other. This happened with increasing frequency which led to the idea of creating a circuit and inviting members to join the circuit near to where they lived, some going clockwise and some anti-clockwise. This was quite legitimate under the Government’s rules and thus heralded what became known as CAC rides which continue to this day. The first one took place on 1 April and resulted in £80 being raised for the charities we support and a stop for refreshments at the end of Maurice’s long driveway, plus the recording of times for the circuit, suitably judged by Howard. The fastest time was set by Graham who did the circuit in 1 hour 49 minutes and 15 seconds.
The Windmill Club did indeed go into hibernation. The WhatsApp group name was changed to Cycle Mates and it was soon swamped with Corona virus jokes and stories like this:
And this from yours truly to encourage members to wash their hands:
Blogs also stopped as we had to show that we were obeying all the rules but unofficial CAC rides took off big time and money poured into the charity box which was hosted at various places throughout April – £93 on the 9th, when Graham was first again, £95 on the 16th, £153 on the 23rd and £85 on the 30th, making a grand total of £984 by the end of April.
During April, Brian started a wonderful series of Windmillers of the Day which included Andrew, Vernon, Sandra, Charles, Keith, Deborah, Chris, John, Lawrence, Ken, Howard, Roger, Geoff, Tom, Graham, Simon, Rod, Nigel, myself and Maurice, before he ran out of photographs from previous blogs. Finally, Brian was created Windmiller of the Day by Andrew. Here’s the gang:
May rides continued in CAC style, with the magnificent sum of £170 being raised on 14 May, when toy windmills were also distributed for attachment to bikes so that Windmillers could be recognised amongst the hoards of other cyclists on the roads. On 26 May, Graham decided to climb the hills around Ickleton in one day enough times to at least equal the 1,600 metres he would have climbed had he been allowed to climb Mont Ventoux that day. In the event he climbed the equivlent of a trip from the seaside to Avoriaz at 1,810 metres! Well done, Graham.
June saw the easing of restrictions at long last and groups of 6 were allowed to cycle together. The blog re-emerged on 1st June when Simon described a rock hard off road route devised by Andrew after a month of no rain which shook 6 Windmillers and their bikes to bits, including Rod falling off in the last half mile, luckily only slightly battered. By 25 June, it was really blazing as 19 Windmillers descended on Wimpole Hall for coffee, all at different times and socially distanced of course.
June also saw the creation by Brian of an easier to remember URL for the blog- http://www.thewindmillclub.org . Is this the reason for a massive increase in visitors and views from many more countries this year?
July started with a memorial ride for Victor’s wife, Rose, who sadly passed away a few weeks back. This created an opportunity to have a special fund raising day resulting in a club record of £440 which Maurice proposed topping up to £500 from club funds and making a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care. It was then topped up by a further £100 from Victor making a grand sum of £600. The day was notable also for a summer footwear parade, Charles winning narrowly in his fancy shoes and socks from Suzanne in her shocking pink / rich plum trainers.
Thoughts of croissants, coffee and Calvados started on Rod’s birthday ride on 10 July as three of the French contingent, Andrew, Simon and I, had a warm up ride with 9 other Windmillers before a socially distanced lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. But Andrew and Simon couldn’t resist really getting in the mood:
So it was early on 13 July that Andrew, Simon, Lawrence and I departed in 2 cars plus bikes for Newhaven, having had to make last minute changes to our itinerary due to our ferry to St Malo being cancelled. But all went well, we had good weather throughout and stayed and ate at some nice places, demolishing platters of seafood at every opportunity. Andrew was our guide for the Normandy beach tour and we also stopped to pay our respects at the memorial to our Windmill friend Kell Ryan, who was well known in the area.
The fine weather continued throughout July and into August when rides were still allowed in groups of up to six people, making it seem almost like the old days and being able to go further afield too, to places like West Stow, Long Melford and Lavenham. Rain and thunderstorms at last arrived to water the garden, and Windmillers, but that didn’t stop Windmillers from venturing out. The rain is at least warm in August.
September got off to a bad start on the 3rd for Andrew having had a puncture and a hornet attack him on the same day whilst on a ride around Stevenage. But the highlight of the day was the arrival at The Rising Sun in Halls Green of Vernon and his wife Moira for lunch, Vernon having introduced as to The Rising Sun a few years back. He was in good form but not fit enough for a ride. He had however been playing a mean round of golf in previous weeks, to which I can testify.
With the holiday period over, rides got going with a vengeance during the remainder of September. On the 10th, after a pleasant ride from the hamlet of Fuller Street, down to Heyford Basin and Maldon, Mike suddenly lurched to his feet during lunch with a swelling the size of a rugby ball in one of his legs. 999 or rush him immediately to hospital in Chelmsford? The latter course of action was considered to be much quicker given the pressure on the NHS and Deborah offered to do just that. He was soon attended to and discharged later that day, just as well as he was on a climbing expedition in France the following week!
Valentines’ Day re-emerged 7 months late on 14th September when Deborah jumped off her bike on a warm sunny evening and dived into a field of glorious wild flowers.
A week later it was Maurice’s turn to pick flowers for Lynn but some Windmillers got a bit worried about this show of affection for me and vice versa:
What started as a bad month for Andrew ended as one too when he developed a bad case of food poisoning which laid him low for a couple of weeks. He reported having lost 10 pounds quite quickly which, as Simon quipped, was quite a lot of money for a Scotsman to lose! So we missed his cheerful company whilst a wet and stormy end to September heralded a more restrictive October, following much the same pattern as earlier in the year. Eureka moment! Storms = surge in cases of corona virus. Banish storms! Banish the virus! Your views, please, Prof Simon.
The really sad news at the end of September was that our good friend and colleague Vernon Gamon died on the 27th, less than a month after joining us for lunch at The Rising Sun and after a long and courageous battle with liver cancer. He was upbeat and stoic right to the end, even to the extent of buying himself a new car in recent weeks. Ken and I were proud to represent The Windmill Club and the Gog Magog Golf Club at his funeral on 12th October at a natural burial site in deepest Leicestershire.
Vernon never forgave me for padlocking my bike to his in Steeple Bumpstead on my first outing with The Windmill Club and forgetting to bring the key. ‘What a plonker’, I heard him say. ‘Whoever invited this nutcase?’
Simon’s October got off to a bad start on the 1st with a major error of route on the return leg of Ken’s ride to Graffham Water when he opted to explore the dual carriageway of the A1 north of Buckden followed by a zig zag route to avoid the new A14 whilst navigating back to base at The White Swan at Conington, by which time lunch was over. He’s been singing the 1961 Dion hit They call me the wanderer ever since. To make matters worse his car would not start but a helpful lady produced some jump leads which did the trick.
Covid-19 cases started to rise again by mid-October which meant The Windmill Club had to get creative again to cope with the popularity of our rides. So on the 15th Geoff and Brian came up with the idea of 3 groups of 6, one of which would use The Three Hills at Bartlow as their base whilst the other two used The Black Bull at Balsham, but all doing the same route in different directions. This worked out well except for a few unrelated hiccups such as Rod having a glancing blow collision with a big lorry on the way to the start and Lawrence having an involuntary dismount at a busy road junction. It also rained hard on one group just as they recognised the lone figure of John Bagrie heading in the opposite direction. It was great to see John again and to have him join us for lunch.
Deborah very kindly provided vast quantities of mushrooms and apples on the 19th on a ride when Maurice was determined to show off on his e-bike leaving others trailing behind who then took a different route, but all met up eventually at The Red Cow and enjoyed a pint outside. On the 22nd there were punctures galore, Martin’s being particularly time consuming and expensive to repair but not as expensive as Maurice’s puncture on his car.
Lockdown recommenced on 2 November which meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for the 5th, which will now be held at a future date. Instead, CAC rides came to the rescue with Windmillers allowed to cycle singly or in pairs. And the lovely early November weather made it seem more bearable, although we felt sorry for the farmers who had no market for pumpkins this year:
Autumnwatch rides were a treat for the naturists, sorry naturalists, amongst us, the highlight being 10 red kites seen circling together by Jenni and Deborah in Anstey on 20 November. Large herds of deer were also spotted amongst the splendid autumn colours:
But by the end of November it was pretty cold, wet, murky and muddy. Brian had a bad day on the 19th having to endure wet weather, a puncture and a bad back all at the same time and the conditions had a strange effect on Simon who, cycling alone at the time, decided to compose the first of an anthology of poems about pigeons. Here it is which could perhaps be set to music and sung in a punk style:
There were eight pigeons on that wire
In spring they ate all my apple-tree buds
Some birds I ‘ate because they are destructive (and don’t sing)
As a convicted multiple murderer of pigeons
Unrepentant, I will scratch on my cell wall
I ‘ate, the eight fat pigeons I ‘ate
And I don’t care
Keep ’em coming Simon!
In the absence of our traditional Christmas lunch when Maurice announces the distribution of the money we have raised for various charities, 26th November became the focus for this year’s announcement. And what a phenomenal amount we have managed to raise – £4,737 as at 26 November which was generously topped up by Maurice by a further £300 to make a grand total of £5,037. The distribution was as follows:
Marie Curie Cancer Appeal: £500, in memory of Rose Humberstone
Arthur Rank Hospice: £500, in memory of Victor
East Anglia Childrens’ Hospice: £1,000
Eve Cancer Appeal: £1,000
The Samaritans: £1,000, in recognition of the amazing work that Deborah does for this charity
Pets as Therapy: £500, in recognition of the work that Charles and Fiona do for this charity with their dogs
Addenbrookes Charitable Trust: £150
December started very cold, wet and windy as three intrepid Windmillers, Alan, Mike and Graham, found to their cost on 3rd December. Most Windmillers decided wisely to buff their candlesticks instead and check that their Christmas lights were still working.
Flooded roads, low temperatures, mud, murk and punctures were now de rigueur for the rest of December. The 10th marked a striking contrast between the haves and the have nots amongst Windmillers. The haves, including Graham, Mike, Geoff, Deborah and Ken smirked contentedly inside the warmth of Poppy’s Barn as they tucked into their coffees, cakes and, in Deborah’s case, a full English breakfast, whilst the have nots comprising Brian, Lawrence, Simon, Victor and myself were forced to sit outside in the freezing cold and wait ages for their coffee whilst also being told off at regular intervals by the smartly dressed waitress for leaving our bikes and items of clothing in the wrong places. Whipped cream coffee was strangely not on the menu.
The 10th was also notable for punctures of all kinds. Gallant Howard firstly came to the assistance of an Ugley lady (actually, she was rather nice!) whose car had got a puncture but after half an hour of trying with only a can of sealant to do the job, he had to give up and the lady was left calling her son. Subsequent Windmillers offered help too and she said what a nice bunch we were! Then both Victor and Brian had punctures on their return leg home, Victor just managing to get there whilst a near-frozen Brian was whisked up by me and returned home by car.
The Christmas spirit was already flowing at Maurice’s on 14 December when Windmillers appeared at suitably spaced intervals to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine. And yet another puncture happened when Suzanne picked up a difficult to locate thorn which required her chief mechanic Graham to diligently find and repair.
The final ride of the year took place on 17th December on a nice sunny day but still with wet and muddy roads at times. Another £100 was raised which will go into the 2021 pot for distribution.
Thanks galore are due to Maurice and Andrew for all their planning and organisation during the year and to those who hosted the charity box and provided refreshments whilst our CAC rides took place. Thanks also to fellow bloggers Brian, Simon and Graham. But, above all, we should thank every member for participating and being so generous during what has been one of the most challenging of years. We have managed to stay safe and healthy whilst at the same time having fun and raising a substantial amount for our chosen charities. WELL DONE ALL!
And now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the summary and prizegiving!
The longest distance prize
First prize Graham with an astonishing 13,458km. Second Rod – 3,256 miles. Third Andrew – 3,049 miles. Fourth Brian – 3, 040 miles (beaten by Andrew by just 9 miles)
The puncture prize
One each recorded by Maurice, Andrew, Martin, Deborah, Alan, Roger, Victor and Suzanne
Four recorded by Brian (yes four!) and so the prize goes equally to him and to Martin, who caused the most loss of time and cost on 22nd October – two exploding tubes, one exploding pump and two discharged CO2 cylinders.
The e-bike breakdown prize
When they go wrong, e-bikes are not the easiest of bikes to repair. Maurice’s gave up the ghost on 5 March, Geoff had problems with his gear control and Rod waited several weeks for a wheel repair before finally getting it sorted by a local chap. The prize goes to Rod.
The involuntary dismount prize
Unfortunately, there were several involuntary dismounts involving Rod on 6th January and again on 1st June, Graham on 5th July, Roger and Alan both on 16th July, Lindsay in March, Lawrence on 15th October and Charles on 26th November. The prize goes to Graham for a particularly spectacular fall on a gravelly junction, witnessed only by himself, which put him out of action for a while.
The dodgy bike prize
Bits fell off Simon’s bike on 23rd July, Andrew’s filthy chain again needed mending due to a dodgy link and Lawrence’s rear disc brake needed repairing on a trip to Aldeburgh. Andrew has won it several times in the past and so this year the prize goes to Simon.
The dodgy car prize
Having had a dodgy battery on two occasions, needing jump cables from Andrew in Upper Langley and also from a helpful lady in The White Swan at Conington, there is only one candidate for this prize. It also goes to Simon.
The getting lost prize
Maurice took a wrong turning on 10th September but found a £20 note whilst doing a U-turn, and then got properly lost towards the end of the ride when he and Howard strayed off route, Lindsay got lost on 21st September, Deborah couldn’t even find the start on 1st October having got lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire, but Simon got lost on 15th June and then again, big time (see above) on 1st October. So the prize goes to Simon. Well done – a hatrick!
The Good Samaritan prize
Sandra came to the rescue of Rod on 6th January, Victor and Brian helped another cyclist on 12th November, Howard came to the aid of a damsel in distress with a puncture in a wheel of her car (see above) but Deborah is the clear winner because of the amazing work she does for The Samaritans (often appearing for a ride with blurry eyes having done a night shift) and for rushing Mike to hospital in Chelmsford on 1st October.
The Mucky Pup prize
This goes to Roger for spoiling his smart new jacket on 13th February, closely followed by Andrew in second place. Roger wins a framed print of this pic:
The Springwatch / Autumnwatch prize
Alan spotted a fine looking stag on 26th October, Ken / Martin spotted a large herd of deer on 5th November (but there were probably countless other sightings not recorded) and Jenni / Deborah witnessed 10 Red Kites circling over Anstey – a fine display. Sandra’s spot of the barn owl in March was awesome but the prize goes to Jenni / Deborah jointly.
The longest ride to the start prize
Graham, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Geoff and Suzanne all have long rides to the start points, unless they use their cars of course. The prize goes to Brian.
The road rage prize
We try to be courteous to motorists at all times but the opposite does not always apply. Andrew had a run-in with a Volvo driver in Long Melford on 6th August and also with an angry lady in Upper Langley who asked him, not very politely, to not park outside her house. Rod also had an incident when riding his e-bike. The prize goes to Andrew who handles such situations very diplomatically.
The dapper dresser prize
No competition this year. Who could compete with Charles with his snazzy stripey socks, fancy shoes and Christmas jumper? The prize goes to Charles.
The poet of the year prize
No competition. The outright winner is Simon.
The Zoom prize
Again, no competition. The winner is Graham who we should thank heartily for setting up many post-ride Zoom meetings throughout the year
Other facts and figures
Prior to lockdown, birthdays were celebrated for Brian, Victor, Martin and Maurice. Thereafter we celebrated Rod’s on 10th July, Deborah’s on 16th July, Howard’s on 23rd July, Charles’s on 6th August and Lawrence’s on 26th November.
John Bagrie had a hip operation early in the year from which he made a rapid recovery and was soon walking / cycling, including a week’s walking in the Lake District with Ken and Lawrence in early September.
Simon had a hernia operation from which he also recovered quickly, although it was somewhat worrying on one of his first rides to Ware that he reported having one black one and one white one. He’s in the pink now, that’s for sure.
Keith had an operation on his neck which had been giving him trouble for some time. We hope to see him out and about with us soon.
Andrew got stung badly by a hornet on 3rd September and had a nasty bout of food poisoning later that month but recovered well from both.
Mike was rushed to hospital in Chelmsford by Deborah on 10th September with a large leg swelling caused by a pedal bursting a blood vessel. He was released later in the day and was climbing mountains in France the following week.
On this sombre final note, we lost one of best loved members, Vernon Gamon. RIP.
PS. If there are any errors or omissions they are all my fault. Let me know if anthing needs to be put right.
Charles’s house in Chrishall was the focal point for this last CAC ride on a Thursday before Christmas, and what a treat there was in store for the Windmillers who took part. The sun shone, the birds sang and everything seemed right in the world, except for Covid-19 and Brexit of course but we could at least forget those for a few pleasurable hours in the saddle.
Feeling a bit idle, Martin took his car to Chrishall overtaking Brian and Ken on the way and egging them on with shouts of ‘Allez allez’ through his open window. Many others rode to their start point too, putting Martin (and Simon) to shame. Rod also drove to Chrishall but was let off as he had much longer to get to the circuit and also was still without his e-bike. Brian had started from Great Shelford, Ric from Harston, Howard, Geoff, Deborah and Jenni from Saffron Walden, whilst Graham and Mike did their own thing and took a roundabout route from Ickleton via Newton and also managed a trip to Poppy’s Barn again. The prize for the furthest distance of the day probably goes to Brian.
In addition to the aforementioned, Maurice, Andrew, Roger and Alan also took part making 17 in all, a fantastic turnout. Here is the route taken:
With groups of up to six allowed under the regulations in force on the day, this enabled several small groups to ride together or to join up with others en route. Rod, Simon, Ken and Martin set off together in an AC direction and it wasn’t long before the familiar figure of Ric caught them up on the climb to Duddenhoe End. It was good to see him out again and to hear about what was going on in his garden.
After all the rain in recent days, the roads were inevitably wet and muddy, nowhere more so than between Albury and Farnham, and perhaps Violets Lane as well near Brent Pelham, but Rod’s group chickened out and decided not to even attempt Violets Lane which is notorious for mud and water at this time of year. Ken peeled off towards Clavering and home at that stage leaving the remaining four to continue their journey.
But the sun more than made up for the wet roads. It was just glorious and provided great opportunities for Simon to get creative once again with his photography.
Rounding a corner near Farnham two groups of Windmillers suddenly met and stopped for a socially distanced chat across the road:
Saying farewell to the other group, Rod’s group started to debate where coffee might be had. The Three Horseshoes at Hazel End looked dead to the world, The Yew Tree in Manuden likewise but thoughts then turned to The Cricketers in Rickling Green and hey presto, the lights were on and we received a very warm and efficient welcome as we ordered coffee for all and large slices of cake for Rod and Simon. Sitting outside was pleasantly dry and quite warm in the sun.
Arriving back at Charles’s, Rod’s group realised they had not seen many other riders – perhaps most were going in the same direction or was it because of stopping at The Cricketers? Deborah and Jenni were just departing and so the great display of puppy bonding by Deborah was sadly missed, but here’s a pic of the happy occasion:
The magnificent sum of £100 was raised for our charity fund.
Thanks to Maurice for planning the route, Andrew for his organisation, Charles for hosting the charity box and providing beers, refreshments and biscuits (much appreciated) and Graham for hosting the evening’s Zoom session. A good time was had by all.
An invitation from Maurice to munch mince pies and wash them down with mulled wine was warmly welcomed by nine Windmillers who stopped off at his house in small groups to enjoy his and Lynn’s kind hospitality. The pies and saucepans of wine kept coming in vast quantities.
Using a CAC route which took in Chrishall, Duddenhoe End, the Langleys, Meesden, Anstey, Barkway, Barley and Great Chishill, enabled Andrew, Charles, Alan, Rod, Nick, Simon, Graham, Suzanne and Martin to call in at steady intervals and to socially distance whilst there. Deborah was hoping to come too but had to pull out due to other commitments, including puppy love.
But not all went well at the start for Suzanne. Riding over from Abington and joining up with Graham and Martin in Ickleton, it wasn’t long before she suffered a puncture on the way to Elmdon and with just one tube available the chief mechanic, Graham, had to ensure that it was right first time. So the cause of the puncture required much forensic examination and it took some time and effort, not to mention the effort required to even detach the rear wheel, before a sliver of flint was discovered that had just penetrated the casing. Blowing the tyre up with a CO2 canister then blew the outer casing off the rim and so it was back to square one and a hand pump was used. Whilst all this was going on, Martin called Andrew to say we might be a wee bit late, Suzanne messaged him likewise and so once we got going again the best bet seemed to be to head direct to Maurice’s and get to the pies and the mulled wine before the others arrived.
Maurice had gone directly from Great Chishill to his house to greet the first visitors, who turned out to be Alan, Rod, Nick and Simon but they had all gone by the time Graham, Suzanne and Martin arrived, Alan reporting subsequently that he had beaten Maurice’s record of climbing from his house to the Barkway radio tower in time of just 9 over minutes or so. Well done Alan – let us know the exact time!
Luckily there were still some pies and wine left. Graham made a quick inspection of Maurice’s immaculate workshop and just as he, Suzanne and Martin were leaving, Andrew and Charles arrived having been circling clockwise. Charles looked particularly festive in his Christmas jumper which blended well with the Christmas decorations that Lynn had put up outside – see above. On the other hand, Martin looked somewhat garish in his new lemon yellow winter jacket from Decathlon.
Suzanne had a flu jab appointment later on in Sawston and so the combination of the puncture delay and a couple of helpings of mince pies and mulled wine (by Graham and Martin, not Suzanne) chief mechanic Graham and his deputy decided to accompany Suzanne back via Barkway, Great Chishill and Duxford to ensure the jab was delivered in time.
This is the time of year when contrasts are made with previous years. This is how it was on 14 December 2017:
Thanks, Maurice and Lynn, for the delicious mince pies and mulled wine and it was great to hear that we raised a further £80 for the charities we support. Let’s hope that December 2021 will see a return to real festivities!
Thursday morning saw sixteen Windmillers turn out for a tour of north west Essex, joining the circuit at whichever point was closest to home – some solo, some in pairs – some going clockwise, others anticlockwise – on a route taking in Saffron Walden, Widdington, Rickling, Stocking Pelham, Langley Upper Green – and Littlebury Green, where Simon hosted refreshments and the charity box.
Undaunted by Martin’s warning that much of the county was under water – we did indeed have to negotiate the odd flooded road – somehow we all got through without dismounting and wading.
Howard in particular had a memorable outing, pausing as he did to assist a stranded motorist. Not only had she a flat tyre, but hers was a vehicle equipped with a can of tyre repair sealant instead of a spare wheel. Howard did his best but only succeeded in getting the tyre semi-inflated. Thanking him profusely the lady drove off, only for Howard to encounter her – again with a flat tyre – a short distance down the road. It was time for her to call her family.
Meanwhile, the day was turning out colder than forecast and we were looking forward to stopping off at Poppy’s Barn for coffee, sustenance and warmth. Alas, we had to sit outside and freeze as Geoff, Ken and Deborah had beaten us to it, arriving early and commandeering three separate tables (remember the rules; no household mixing!) Whereupon the proprietor, deciding she could not accommodate any more cyclists inside, asked the rest of us to sit outside. Humph! Neither did it help when Deborah gave us a jolly wave through the window as she tucked into her full English breakfast.
Suffering mild exposure, those of us finishing up at Simon’s were too chilled to consume cold beer and opted instead to stuff our fivers in the charity box and head for home. Poor old Victor and Brian, however, sustained punctures on the way home. Victor, making several stops to pump up his tyre, managed to get home without mending the puncture. No such luck for Brian, who found himself marooned on top of Coploe Hill with a totally flat tyre. Fortunately for him, Martin drove by on his way home, scooped him up and returned him to Great Shelford. Many thanks, Martin.
For the record, this week’s hardy bunch comprised Maurice, Andrew, Alan, Martin, Ken, Deborah, Geoff, Howard, Charles, Lawrence, Graham, Mike, Simon, Roger, Victor and Brian.
Simon reports the charity box yielded £120; well done, team! And thanks, as ever, Maurice and Andrew for organising it all.
Finally, we must just give a special mention to our two pals – Keith and Nigel – who, for various health related reasons, have been unable to join us for the past several months. We miss their company and look forward to them joining us again once things get back to normal in 2021.
Thursday was forecast to be cold and wet and windy and so it turned out. Many Windmillers, who had been keen for the ride the evening before, suddenly found a pressing need to buff their candlesticks on the day.
Nevertheless, three intrepid riders, Alan, Mike and Graham (or more likely, the three riders with no silverware to polish) congregated at Simon’s in Littlebury Green and decided to ‘damn the torpedoes’ and go for it anyway. Simon had dutifully put the collection box out and a selection of beers for later, under a carefully tethered umbrella.
Riding as permitted group of 3, the excellent, if bumpy, course mercifully passed without incident – other than for the creeping coldness and dampness. Alan departed for home at Langley and Graham and Mike found some socially distanced solace in the warmth of Poppys Barn tearoom.
By the time they returned to Littlebury Green (with no intention of stopping for a cool beer), the collection box and beers had already been safely taken in !
Take a look at last week’s blog and compare the difference! OK, last week’s photo of Elmdon church was taken at 12.55pm and this one at 3.25pm but what a difference in the weather. Gone are the bright blue skies and suddenly Christmas is upon us with a tree all lit up outside the church. And the roads are murky and muddy – as traditional as Christmas itself.
There were some doubts expressed about whether or not to ride but Suzanne led the way by cycling over from Abington and then WhatsApping from Elmdon to encourage the doubters to give it a try. And so after a faltering start there were seven Windmillers in all who took part, the others being Maurice, Andrew, Charles, Graham, Deborah and Martin.
The route was a reverse of last Monday’s CAC ride, so no need to repeat the map here. Graham, Suzanne and Martin started AC from Elmdon, suitably socially distanced as there can only be a max of two people cycling together, but it wasn’t long before they spotted a lone cyclist sporting smart stripy socks heading towards them. It could only be Charles and so at that point Martin did a U-turn and cycled with him clockwise whilst Graham and Suzanne continued AC towards Chrishall.
But luckily for Charles and Martin it wasn’t raining much – just a few spits and spots at the start and finish mixed with the mud from farm vehicles to make the roads slippery and to coat bikes, shoes and clothing in a fine layer of filth. Charles was wisely taking it very easy on sharp corners having had a spill the previous Thursday and suffering from bruises as a result. Maurice reported rain when he started at 12.50 and Deborah got wet after starting at 2.40, finishing in the dark and wishing she had started earlier.
Meetings took place between Charles and Martin with Maurice near Rickling and then with Andrew, Graham and Suzanne in Stocking Pelham, outside the rebuilt but unopened Cock Inn in Stocking Pelham, where a planning dispute has been going on for years following the previous Grade 2 listed building being burnt down.
Charles and Martin decided to give Violets Lane near Brent Pelham a miss as it is notoriously muddy but the others seemed happy to give it a go – they must just love wallowing in the stuff.
The homeward leg was uneventful and quiet as we just missed the school run and so no Volvos, Mercs or Beemers to contend with. Luckily no tractors either as we already had more than our fair share of mud. Saying farewell to Charles in Chrishall, thanking him for his kind offer of shelter, Martin carried on and having stopped at 3.25 in Elmdon to take the photo of the church he then met up with Graham and Suzanne who appeared at almost the same time after their AC ride. All three cycled back to Ickleton and Suzanne continued in the gloom to Abington having clocked up another impressive 35 miles – another contender perhaps for the mega distance ride per year award? Mind you, Graham will be hard to beat any year.
Thanks once again to Maurice and Andrew for their planning. Well done to all for turning out.
In the absence of a Christmas lunch this year, Maurice chose today to announce the distributions to be made to the charities that The Windmill Club supports. An amazing £4,737 has been raised so far this year, as at 26 November, with £,4,600 distributed to charities closely associated with some of our members. The photo above, taken during a coffee break at Burwash Manor, shows Maurice handing over cheques to Deborah, for The Samaritans, and to Charles for Pets as Therapy. A complete list was provided by Andrew in a WhatsApp post which is repeated here:
Windmill Club Charity donations 2020 Maurice and I would like to thank you all for your amazingly generous donations to various Windmill Club charities in 2020 – As of last Thursday 20 November we have received £4,600 in donations and with nearly 5 weeks until the year end, we’re confident our target of £5,000 will be beaten. To keep you informed here is a list of the charities we are supporting Marie Curie Cancer £500 Arthur Rank Hospice. £500 East Anglian children’s hospice. £1000 Eve appeal for cancer. £1000 Samaritans. £1000 Pets as therapy. £500 Addenbrookes charitable trust. £150
We supported Arthur Rank follow the death of our dear friend Vernon. The Samaritans are supported due to the sterling work Deborah does on a voluntary basis, working throughout the night and after a couple of hours sleep she out on one of our Thursday rides -amazing !! Pets as Therapy are supported due to the wonderful work Charles undertakes, with weekly visits to Addenbrookes Hospital and two residential homes in Saffron Walden, unfortunately curtailed due to Covid. Well done Charles!! We will keep you full posted of the final total and in the meantime a heartfelt thanks from Maurice and I for your contributions and support throughout 2020. Andrew
And with more rides still to come in 2020, there is every chance we might achieve our target of £5,000 for the year. In such a difficult year for fund raising by charities, Windmillers have dug deep into their pockets to raise this magnificent sum – over double the amount of £2,000 raised in 2019! Well done to all!
This ride was a repeat of last week’s ride in most respects, except the weather which was nicer on the whole but very cold, icy and slippery in places, as Charles found to his cost whilst rounding a corner in Haslingfield at the junction with Chapel Hill, but luckily escaped without injury. And there were thorns to contend with too, as Roger dicovered early on between Chrishall Grange and Ickleton Old Grange where several Windmillers stopped to lend a hand, Andrew supplying assistance and pliers in particular whilst others offered mainly sympathy. What a horrible task it is fitting a new tube on a cold frosty morning! Bad luck, Roger. Did Andrew mention Schwalbe Marathons by any chance?
It was a large gang of 17 Windmillers on this CAC ride, and it could have been more if Brian wasn’t still suffering from a bad back and if Victor had been able to make it. The forecast of freezing weather clearly doesn’t put off hardy Windmillers. Besides the aforementioned, the others were Lindsey, Ken, Howard, Graham, Geoff, Mike, Rod, Lawrence, Alan, Simon, Jenni and Martin, riding in ones and twos, and this is where we went:
Burwash Manor in Barton proved to be an excellent place, once again, to stop and warm up with good coffee, mince pies, scones and cakes. It’s well organised with lots of outside tables and clean toilets, so much to recommend it. Situated approximately half way around the ride, there was quite a large gathering of socially distanced Windmillers at one time.
Last week, Simon cruised around in wet weather but found the time to compose a poem about Hannibal, the Alliterative, Little Lecter of Littlebury who served a prison sentence for murdering the pigeons that had been eating his produce, but he didn’t care. (See last week’s blog!) This week, to be fair to the pigeons, he thought they should have their say and so here it is:
Being a kind pigeon isn’t easy they say Up on this bare wire, amongst cold winds all day No being a pigeon isn’t so easy as that There’s hawks and starvation and that terrible cat
When you’re a pigeon and you get really old You stand on a wire since your feet get quite cold After flying around they can feel just like ice Please turn on your kettle, because that feels quite nice
Mum taught me to stay until my feet were quite dried Not too long though, since sadly my Dad, he got fried At school for pigeons the teachers did not mention Never told him, avoid ones labelled high tension
We know we’re a noisy, nuisance eating your grain But it’s dark and its winter, it even might rain Now I can’t sleep, the next bird, loudly is snoring We ate all your buds, because lock-down is boring
Little did we know that Simon is a professor of poetry as well as chemistry!
Another reason for celebrating was that it was Lawrence’s birthday but, sadly, there was no pub available for him to buy a round of drinks. Don’t worry, Lawrence, we’ll add you to the long list of non-celebrated birthdays this year particularly as pubs will need all the support they can get post-Covid.
Geoff was still shaking with cold when arriving back at Martin’s gate and was warmed up with a mug of coffee before continuing his journey home. Others enjoyed a beer, and many thanks to Graham for kindly topping up the beer supplies.
All in all a very special day and an eventful day all rolled into one. Thanks again to Maurice for being the inspiration behind The Windmill Club and Andrew for all the time he spends organising us.
Bringing the departure time forward to 1.00pm enabled a pleasant CAC ride to take place in good light on this late November day. Maurice created an interesting circuit, resembling a map of England (minus Devon and Cornwall), Scotland and Wales, and it was joined at various places by nine Windmillers.
The C brigade comprised Maurice, Andrew, Lindsey, Martin, Suzanne, Nick and Deborah, whilst the ACers were Rod and Charles, which explains why the C brigade didn’t meet many others. Martin and Suzanne were mainly responsible for this, having disobeyed orders by going Clockwise, Martin’s excuse being that he was getting giddy going AC in recent weeks.
This is where we went:
Despite the lovely weather, this proved not to be the ornithological extravaganza that we had the previous week when 10 red kites were seen circling over Anstey. The occasional buzzard was spotted but that was about it, at least as far as Martin and Suzanne were concerned. Perhaps the others had better luck but there have been no reports on WhatsApp of anything special being spotted. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to CAC around in. (Note that CAC can be used as both a verb and adjective but has not yet made the OED.)
Maurice cycled alone which generally results in faster speeds as there is no opportunity to get stuck into a discussion /debate with a cycling companion, which seems to reduce the average speed. He therefore did some overtaking in Berden and was then seen chatting briefly to Rod and Charles before accelerating away at high speed.on his e-bike.
Ending the ride by 3.00pm enabled Suzanne to cycle back in daylight to Abington, clocking up a total of 35 miles in the process, which was a big improvement on the previous week when it was cold, dark and wet.
Thanks go as always to Maurice for planning the route and Andrew for his organisation. Where would we be without those stalwarts?
For Thursday 19th November Maurice had set an unusual course; a figure of eight, with Haslingfield at the centre and Burwash Manor as the coffee stop. On this occasion the pleasure to be derived from the trip depended on whether you did it in the morning, as 16 people did, or later after the rain had mostly passed, as did Deborah and Jenni.
Eight has long been regarded as the luckiest number in Chinese culture. The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics started at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm on 8 the August 2008. Jesus was resurrected on the 8th day after Passover. Spanish gold was known “pieces of eight”. The 8-ball is the key to snooker. Everything will be OK on this course I felt, what can possibly go wrong?
There’s no getting over it, the weather was dismal, but I set off hoping to see people and receive a cheery wave. I donned wet weather gear and reached Ickleton unscathed, then visited the charity box at Martin’s. To my delight CHOCOLATE BISCUITS to keep out the cold, top chap. And beer. Better drink that later, after all it’s only 9.50. Still I am beginning to understand why they make alcohol expensive in Nordic countries. Goodness isn’t it grey. On I go Hinxton, nobody, Duxford, nobody. Whittlesford. Where are you all? At Newton I check my phone. Yes it’s Thursday, yes I have the right map, but where are 16 of you? Uncharitably I think, they must have looked out of the window and gone back to bed.
The rain wasn’t hard, just enough to keep me in wet-weather gear. It was grey though. I thought what shall I do to cheer myself up? I know compose a poem, so here it is.
A poem by Hannibal the
Alliterative, Little, Lecter of Littlebury.
There were eight pigeons on that wire
In spring they ate all my apple-tree buds
Some birds I ‘ate because they are destructive (and don’t sing)
As a convicted multiple murderer of pigeons
Unrepentant, I will scratch on my cell wall
I ate, the eight fat pigeons I ‘ate.
And I don’t care.
To forestall the obvious literary criticism, I know these are homophones, a subset of homonyms and not alliterative, but this art not English Language A-level, so give me a break. Now you understand how bored I had become.
Finally I struck gold, none other than Maurice and how glad I was to see him. Not long after that, my cup over-floweth, Victor too. Victor had started with Brian, but Brian had pulled out, faced by impending hills and a complaining back. Victor was about to give up and go home, but now I knew everything was going to be alright. You see I knew 8 was a lucky number.
The weather steadily improved as we made our way round. We encountered increasing numbers of club members. Good to see you all and to have a chat in these lock-down days.
I say the weather improved, it did so to such a degree that by the time Deborah and Jenni had done the circuit they were able to capture these amazing images
By the end of the day one would have to say this was actually a highly successful Windmill ride. We had been encouraged out by being part of the club. We had eased the boredom. We had raised another £150, with more to come.
We thank the usual Maurice and Andrew. Also Martin for his hospitality and Graham for his efforts on Zoom pub meetings. It takes a lot of effort to make a club work and I’m sure all the members are grateful, especially in these challenging times.
Like Bob Geldof in the Boomtown Rats (and Brenda Spencer), much of the club ‘don’t like Mondays’. Still going for a cycle ‘livens it up’ without hurting anyone, so off we went again. Many members made it out; Alan, Lawrence, Maurice, Martin and Suzanne, Deborah and Jenni, Andrew, Simon, Charles and Andrew with Lindsey having to drop out of this one.
People set off from different points with Andrew having assigned a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction for each person beforehand. All very well if you can remember how to reverse your way-points on the fly. Still we set off meeting sporadically as usual with the occasional conversations from opposite sides of the road. This is most social we are allowed to be at the current time.
The highlight of the ride was the spotting of so many red kites. Suzanne and Martin saw 5, Deb and Jenni saw 10. Taking my editorial duties very seriously, I thought it wise to check the verisimilitude of these sightings of course. The RSPB site says ‘There are probably around 1,800 breeding pairs in Britain, about half in Wales, with the rest in England and Scotland. In England the reintroduced birds can be found in the Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Gateshead and Grizedale Forest in Cumbria.’ So seeing so many was very lucky, perhaps due to a local-spot, maybe.
One the other hand, there are a number of common birds of prey in UK; Harrier, Goshawk, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk. One of particular interest is the Common Buzzard.
I shall be looking more carefully next time. Maybe we should have a prize for the first good photo?
Just outside Clavering on the way to Langley Upper Green we have a fine example of hedges cut according to two British traditions. The smooth and understated, following a time honoured style, for which the UK is famous. This tradition is best embodied by the Royalty and our splendid city parks perhaps. And on the other side, innovation and individuality, this is also the British way; the Beatles, Punk, Henry Moore and Banksy. In Switzerland the right hand hedge would elicit a letter from the council, asking for it to be tided up. I speak from grim experience. I was fined for mowing the grass on Sunday and sternly warned by a local government official, not to flush my apartment toilet after 10 pm.
Dark nights, cold and solo cycling, this leaves time for ones mind to wander. What would I like for Christmas, I thought? I don’t know. After thumbing through the back-catalogue of my memory, it came to me.
What I would like most is well trimmed bush as modelled by my niece, pictured here last summer. Yes that would make me very happy. There’s a lot that needs doing in the garden. That’s that problem solved then.
Soon after I took the hedge photos, Alan passed me and we made our way round to Chishill together. It was good to have company and the road from Chisill back to Elmdon is mostly downhill, so as the light faded, I was soon home. Another Monday ride done.
Another fine route by Maurice. Made to happen by the steady organisation of Andrew. It was good to see all those who took part.
According to Wikipedia, the village of Chrishall marks the highest point in Essex, at some 147 metres above sea level. Atop these lofty heights lives our Windmill chum, Charles, who on Thursday was hosting the Club charity box.
Victor and Brian, having cycled from home, had already clocked up 40 miles and stopped to help a stranded cyclist, so we arrived at Charles’ somewhat later than expected. Just as the Union Jack flies over the Palace to signify the queen is in residence, we were hoping the Cross of St George flying over Chalky Lane meant that somebody was home. Letting ourselves in through the side gate, we found the place strangely deserted. Charles was probably walking his many dogs or otherwise airing his cavalry twills. No matter, stuffing our contributions in the charity box, we mounted up and headed back down the hill towards Great Shelford some ten miles distant.
We had enjoyed a delightful outing; perfect autumn weather, beautiful countryside, quiet roads and, every so often, a cheery wave – or a few brief words – exchanged with a Windmiller going the other way.
Our notable moments had included:
Graham passing us on the circuit not once, not twice but three times. The man is a machine!
Judging by the many photographs posted, the big log on the roadside between Little Hormead and Furneux Pelham proved a popular spot to pause for refreshments; we trust everyone sanitised the log before moving on.
Pulling up for a breather in Nuthampstead, we found ourselves outside Bridget Tarrington’s house – and there was the lady herself tending the garden. We had a lovely chat – hopefully overlooked by the lockdown police – separated as we were by Bridget’s garden gate. She sends her love to all and hopes to join us on a Monday ride in the spring.
The aforementioned stranded cyclist was Suz, who we found mending a puncture by the roadside in Great Chishill. Helping out, we realised we had a mutual acquaintance; Suz lives in Wendens Ambo and is a near neighbour of Andrew’s. She was interested to know more about the Windmill Club and, who knows, we may even see her join us on future outings.
Finally, we must thank Maurice for the fine route, Andrew for logistics, and Graham, Simon, Martin and Deb for the many fine photographs.
This should have been Vernon’s memorial ride but instead it became a CAC ride as a result of the new lockdown. 18 responsible Windmillers therefore set forth singly or in pairs on clockwise and anti-clockwise rides around a route which had been used during the previous lockdown, enabling almost all to join near to where they lived. Those going clockwise were Geoff, Andrew, Howard, Alan, Brian, Graham, Mike, Simon and Roger whilst those going anti-clockwise were Martin, Ken, Lawrence, Charles, Maurice, Rod, Deborah, Jenni and Nick. There was plenty of waving to those passing in the opposite direction.
This is where we went:
The weather was nearly perfect for a November day – a misty start in places which soon cleared to reveal bright sun on higher ground, no wind and quite mild. Maurice hosted the charity box, which added a further £107 to the magnificent sum of £4k+ already raised this year but, as Rod said recently, ‘Let’s make it over £5k by the year end’. Maurice also generously provided some beers, in return for a larger donation to the box of course. But lugging a 500ml bottle of Adnam’s Southwold up the hill to Barkway was Martin’s excuse for taking longer than usual. (10.45am just seemed too early to consume a beer at Maurice’s but it went down a treat at the end of the ride.)
Rod also observed recently that CAC rides can lack the support of others when things go wrong, as they did on this ride for Alan (puncture, but he got home after several pump-ups) and Geoff (unknown problem but he got home ok). All being well, there should be someone heading in the opposite direction or coming from behind, depending on the start and finish times.
Different Windmillers see different things when out on a ride. How did Ken and Martin, and perhaps others too, miss the pumpkin field? Deborah and Jenni not only saw it but Deborah got amongst them too (see photo above) and Simon stopped to take some really arty farty photos which make the field look more like a lunar landscape:
And here are some more taken on Simon’s ride:
Graham was clearly in a photogenic mood too:
Ken and Martin meanwhile were spotting the wildlife:
And here are some pics of some of those taking part:
All got back to base safely and to end the day Graham organised a Zoom session at 6.00pm to recount tales. A good time was had by all.
Thanks to Maurice and Andrew for organising the day and to Simon, Graham and Brian for some of the pics. And thanks again to Maurice for the beers.
After several happy weeks under the Rule of Six and Tiers 1 and 2 which enabled almost normal rides and pub lunches to take place, but requiring some CAC adjustments at times, this ride involving just six Windmillers was about as normal as they come. However, the debacle over the lockdown announcement on 31 October instead of 2 November, due to a leaky Minister, meant that we knew before setting off that this would be the last ‘proper’ ride for at least a month. Sadly, this meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for 5 November but we will look forward to arranging a new date once we can all get together properly again.
In the expectation of Maurice being able to present Moira with a lovely framed photograph of Vernon this week, Brian, who very kindly organised the printing and framing of the photo, cycled from Shelford to The Red Cow in Chrishall with it on board. But due to the imminent new lockdown Moira had very sensibly decided to spend the month with her daughter and so the photo will be presented to her at a future date. Here it is in the back of Maurice’s car:
So, it was Maurice, Andrew, Rod, Lawrence, Alan and Martin who set off in a group of six from The Red Cow around our lanes on this sunny autumnal day. This is where we went:
All went well as far as the Shaftenhoe End / Little Chishill junction where there was a significant traffic jam, the likes of which we have never seen before, caused by a large delivery vehicle, a tractor and several cars not to mention six cyclists all of whom had to reverse / do a U-turn, to enable the delivery vehicle to pass, with a very harrassed-looking driver at the wheel. Astonishingly, we saw the same vehicle coming towards us again on a narrow lane in the vicinity of Meesden with the driver looking even more unhappy, having nearly ended up in a ditch to avoid us. Let’s hope he wasn’t on commission of 50p per delivery.
The sun was low in the sky by the time we reached Langley Upper Green, which enabled some fine photographs to be taken:
At this point, Martin’s new chain and cassette started slipping a gear or two and so engineer Andrew said he would tweak the cable adjuster half a turn which should sort it out. Result: some improvement but more tweaking / investigation needed.
It looked like a good sunset was in store, and indeed it was:
Back at The Red Cow we received a warm welcome and enjoyed a socially distanced pint on 3 separate tables, followed by some ordering fish and chips from the van outside before departing for home with a full moon to light the way.
Thanks as always to Maurice and Andrew for organising the ride.
The CAC acronym, invented by The Windmill Club, is now generally known by Windmillers as meaning Clockwise Anti-Clockwise and has proved to be a most useful way of continuing our rides during periods of lockdown whilst obeying all the rules. But what is it about CAC rides that seems to bring members out in larger numbers than on normal rides? Is it a reaction against being told to lockdown (but are we really a rebellious lot?) or is it the convenience of starting and finishing a ride near to home and being convivial at the same time? Perhaps CAC could also stand for Convenience and Conviviality? Other suggestions on a postcard, please.
So we had 10 Windmillers setting out either singly or in pairs on a route devised by Maurice, who went clockwise along with Charles, Deborah / Jenni, and Simon. Those going anti-clockwise were Andrew / Lindsey, Nick and Lawrence / Martin. This is where we went:
Maurice was the first person that Lawrence and Martin met, in Heydon, followed by Charles near Barkway golf course and Simon near Meesden, who had time to remove his helmet and get stuck into a big debate with Lawrence about the role of consultants in life. The consensus was that they are generally ripping off the taxpayer but Martin said why not become one if the Government chooses to throw our money around liberally? Ten minutes later we decided it might start to get dark and so we pedalled on. Then we met Deborah and Jenni who were clearly enjoying a nice autumnal ride. Here they all are:
Meanwhile, Andrew was on the look out as usual for roadkill, having been known in the past to stuff anything that looks tasty into his bike bag, dead or alive, including a solitary onion once. But on this occasion it wasn’t a pheasant or partridge or even the deer which he was seen eyeing up in a ditch near Chrishall recently, but some lovely looking quinces and an Ice Plant:
We didn’t see Nick but he reported having had to modify the route due to not having charged up his battery beforehand. But it appears he needn’t have worried as he got back with plenty of oomph left. The range of some of those modern e-bikes is just amazing.
Thanks to all for taking part and particularly Maurice and Andrew for their organisation and Simon who provided the wonderful topiary photo above – enough to scare off any nasty virus.
Once again, it was The Red Cow at Chrishall for the meeting place on this autumnal Monday ride. Is it the convenient location, is it the cosy interior now that the evenings are getting chilly or is it the fish and chip van in the pub’s car park which gets going just as a ride finishes that makes it so popular? Whatever the reason, it resulted in another good turnout of nine Windmillers to enjoy a circuit of local lanes, in two groups, one going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise making this another CAC ride.
With the clocks having just gone back an hour, 3.00pm was pushing our luck a bit for setting off, given that we started at 3.30pm the week before. But the weather made all the difference – a bright, sunny afternoon which lasted for a couple of hours compared to a cloudy end to the previous Monday.
Maurice’s group included Charles, Sandra, Nick and Simon whilst Andrew’s group included Alan, Rod and Martin. As usual, Maurice shot off at high speed on his e-bike, anti-clockwise, leaving the others trailing in his wake whilst Andrew’s group freewheeled merrily down to the Wendens Ambo road before climbing up to Duddenhoe End. This is where we went:
We are used to seeing a wide variety of wild life on our rides but Andrew’s group were thrilled to spot a very large stag near Meesden, thanks to sharp-eyed Alan, strutting his stuff (the stag not Alan) on open fields looking for his next conquest. He was a magnificent beast and was seen again close up the other side of Meesden with a smile on his face. Had he just had a quick rut we wondered? Martin was slow on the draw with his camera and the stag soon galloped off having presumably got a whiff of his next romantic encounter, but this is what he looked like:
With decreasing light, Andrew’s group decided not to call in at Maurice’s house but, in any event, whilst rocketing down the long hill from the Barkway ridge we saw the others crawling up in the opposite direction. They still had a long way to go, no doubt due to Maurice’s hospitality, and indeed they returned to The Red Cow some time after Andrew’s group.
The sun was just setting behind the Great Chishill windmill as Andrew’s group climbed up to the village, which enabled the featured photo above to be taken. Of all the windmills we pass on our travels this one seems to have a majestic beauty about it.
Portions of chips with spicy mayo and tomato sauce washed down with a pint of Wherry proved to be a very good end to a rutting good ride.
Thanks go to Maurice and Andrew for planning and organising the ride.
P.S. What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idea.