Thursday morning saw a goodly turnout of sixteen Windmillers set off from The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting, for a 30-odd mile tour of West Suffolk. Deceived by the forecast of a dry day, some were regretting leaving their waterproofs at home as they headed out into the persistent drizzle.
And it stayed wet almost as far as our mid-way coffee stop at the Fox & Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead; Landlady Kate once again kindly opening up early just for us.
Happily, this was an outing where nobody got stung or otherwise discombobulated – and Andrew managed to hang on to his wallet for the duration. It was good to see Mike back in the saddle looking fit as a fiddle. And we were particularly pleased to see Lawrence join us for lunch following his unscheduled sleepover in London.
For the record our intrepid sixteen were: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Hazel, Howard, Maurice, Mike, Ric, Rod, Roger, Simon, Tom and Victor
Thanks are due, as ever, to Maurice and Andrew for getting us all organised and Charles for the photographs. Rachel and Peter too for taking such good care of us at The Chestnut Tree.
We like the Fox & Hounds at Steeple Bumpstead, not least because Landlady Kate provides coffee and biscuits while we wait for Deborah, who generally arrives just as we are draining our cups.
Refreshed and ready to go, twelve Windmillers attempt to form two equal sized pelotons in conformance with government guidelines*. Only it never quite works out, Maurice heading out with eight riders while Brian musters just four. Maybe some can’t count? Maybe – quite understandably – others fear getting lost with Brian? Or maybe it’s just our Keystone Cops-like inability to get organised. Who knows.
Whatever the reason, all twelve somehow found their way to Clare where we enjoyed some excellent coffee and cake at Platform One, the café in the long-disused railway station.
From Clare we made short work of the return trip to Steeple Bumpstead where Landlady Kate served up a hearty lunch washed down with a restorative ale.
For the record, this week’s riders were: Maurice, Howard, Roger, Deborah, Jenni, Alan, Victor, Graham, Geoff, Charles, Lawrence and Brian – and Ken joined us for lunch.
Thanks, Maurice, for organising another terrific outing.
*As of Thursday, 27 August 2020, Cycling UK’s guidance is that groups of up to fifteen can ride provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Read more.
Thursday morning in Steeple Bumpstead and we were hopeful of a fine morning’s cycling ahead of the thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. But thunder was already heard as we unloaded the bikes and rain followed shortly after. There was nothing for it but to retire to the Fox & Hounds for an early coffee.
The worst of the downpour passed and we ventured out on the wet roads; the first group – Maurice in the lead followed by Lawrence, Howard, Roger and Simon – followed some five minutes later by the second group comprising Brian, Deborah, Geoff, Graham and Mike.
We had gone barely three miles when the rain came down again, only this time in torrents. Soon the road was awash and we could barely see where we were going. In Stambourne, Maurice’s group sought shelter under the church lych-gate. Old English for corpse-gate, this was the sheltered meeting place where a funeral party would gather and where the priest would receive the shroud-wrapped body and commence the funeral rites.
What better port in a storm for five sodden Windmillers?
Meanwhile, Brian’s group, caught out by the deluge on a quiet lane, sought shelter in a cowshed. The cows didn’t seem to mind and neither did the farmer who, turning up to unblock a storm drain and initially startled by the sight of sodden cyclists in her barn, said we were very welcome – but we weren’t to milk the cows.
Half an hour later the rain had stopped and we headed out again, skirting the deeper puddles. Ten miles down the road, the sun was shining and we were almost dry again.
Mike, joining us for the first time, was on a fixie – a great way to keep fit as you have to go all out and attack every hill; either that or get off and push, which doesn’t look cool. Mike crested every hill with ease; we were impressed.
Given all the delays, there was no time for our usual coffee stop in Finchingfield as we were expected back at the Fox & Hounds for lunch. Instead we sailed on through the picturesque village and out past the windmill, heading for Cornish Hall End and the final leg back to Steeple Bumpstead.
Enjoying a beer at the pub, we were glad to report no punctures, no broken chains, no e-bike breakdowns, no disputing the highway code with wayward drivers – and nobody had fallen off. A triumph!
Thanks, Maurice for another great outing – and a belated Happy Birthday to Roger, who bought the beers.